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Newspaper's self-control complaint about a public person

Adjudication
15 July 1998

EPC discussed at the request of Eesti Ekspress the compliance of an article published in the mentioned newspaper (27/1998) headlined “Tallinn’s life of sin during Balthasar times” with good journalistic practice. The article contains email exchange between the journalist Madis Jürgen and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Toomas Hendrik Ilves. T.H. Ilves accused the newspaper of breaching the inviolability of private correspondence.

Eesti Ekspress raised the following questions:
Could the aforementioned case be treated as private correspondence?
Was the newspaper’s interest in the minister’s personal life justified?

EPC decided the following:

1. No exchange of views between a minister and a journalist can be considered private unless it is agreed otherwise beforehand. Minister as a high official is considered as public figure (Clause 1.6 of the Code of Ethics of the Estonian Press).

2. In this case Eesti Ekspress represents justified public interest in the private life of T.H. Ilves as it directly concerns the usage of tax payers’ money (Clause 4.9 of the Code of Ethics of the Estonian Press).

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