András Koltay Associate Professor Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Hungary

András Koltay has been a Lecturer at Pázmány Péter Catholic University Faculty of Law and Political Sciences in Budapest, Hungary since 2002. From 2012 he is an Associate Professor. He received LLM degree in public law at the University College London in 2006, and PhD degree in law at the Pázmány Péter Catholic University in 2008. He attended the human rights course of the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2003. His principal research has been concerned with freedom of speech, personality rights and media regulations, but he also deals with other constitutional questions. He is the author of more than 100 articles in Hungarian and in foreign languages, and two monographs on comparative freedom of speech (in English, Freedom of Speech: The Unreachable Mirage. Budapest, Wolters Kluwer, 2013). He is the head of the Media Studies Research Group in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences since 2012.

The regulation of the defamation of public figures in Europe

The development of the protection of reputation in modern times is difficult to reconcile with the recognition of privileged statuses and the fact that an individual is active in public life is regarded as one that automatically reduces the scope of such protection. This approach is essential to a fundamental feature of democratic societies: open debates on public matters are more important—up to a certain limit—than the protection of the personality rights of the persons being criticised. Persons participating in public life voluntarily waive their opportunity to enforce their personality rights in general. The limited protection of the reputation and honour of public figures thus became acknowledged in all legal systems which recognise the above distinction.

It is an almost uniform feature of European legal systems that this reduction of the scope of the protection of the reputation of public figures is not provided for in codified law; the manner of the application of the law in this special case is left to the case law of the courts. Only a couple of states form an exception to this but, even in their case, it is usually only in the field of criminal justice that the legal code of the branch of the law offers any guidance. Common European law, respecting the specific, organically evolved solutions applied by the member states, has not attempted a uniform resolution of this issue; however, the European Court of Human Rights, which is traditionally very active in these areas, has successfully drawn up the foundations that the various states are required to take into account when applying the law.