ECtHR’s decision on archiving online articles

ECtHR orders the anonymization of legitimate information in media archives to protect the right to be forgotten and privacy. Article 19 raises concerns that such a decision sets a precedence that could negatively affect freedom of expression.

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The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled on the case of the ‘right to be forgotten’ concerning the Belgian newspaper Le Soir archives. The Court ordered that the media company could be subject to a requirement for the anonymisation of legitimate information in its media archives. The decision concerned a civil judgement requiring the newspaper’s electronic archive to anonymize an article naming the full name of a driver responsible for a fatal accident in 1994. The Court took into account factors such as the nature and seriousness of the reported facts, the lack of current or historical interest, and the driver’s level of public recognition. It noted that keeping the article online without restrictions could negatively impact the driver’s rehabilitation and create a perception of a ‘virtual criminal record.’ The Court also stated that anonymization of the article is seen as the most effective way to protect the privacy of the person involved, and it is not considered an excessive burden for the publisher.

International human rights organisation, Article 19 argues that media archives are important for both the media and the public. Interference with the integrity of archives and the application of the ‘right to be forgotten’ against them can have serious implications for freedom of expression and access to information.