Spain’s celebrities and paparazzi head for war

Spain’s celebrities and paparazzi head for war

26th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

The paparazzi may have won in a battle to pry into the life of the princess’ sister, but the fight is far from over.

MADRID - The first battle may have been lost, but the war between Spain's celebrities and the paparazzi is probably only just beginning.

When a court in Toledo ruled against a request by Telma Ortiz two weeks ago, the younger sister of the princess of Asturias, for an injunction banning the media from taking or using her image, you could almost hear the groans of dismay from harassed celebrities and quasi-celebrities across the country.

The rich, the famous and anyone else who by fortune or misfortune has become a magnet for gossip-hungry TV talk shows and glamour magazines see the failure of Ortiz's case as a missed opportunity to set a legal precedent that would help protect their rights to privacy.

The media, in contrast, have been left none the wiser in a long-running debate that pits an individual's right to privacy against freedom of the press. They still do not know, for example, exactly how far they can go to hunt down a celebrity.

Is it fair or even legal for photographers and film crews to camp outside a celebrity's home and follow their every move? Who should be considered famous, and therefore fair game? And what exactly should be considered news - a new love affair, for example, or a trip to the supermarket?

The problem is that Ortiz's request for an injunction was rejected on mostly technical grounds. The judge found fault with the form in which the case had been presented, while delving only briefly into the substance of the issue.

"It's a shame that this didn't go through to the end," says Jaime Tapia, the spokesperson for a progressive association of magistrates known as Judges for Democracy. "There are cases of abuse as we all know, situations of harassment of certain people that have to be stopped. But the plaintiffs needed to explain their aim and their reasons better. They still have the chance to do that...," he adds.

In seeking an injunction - an unprecedented action - Ortiz and her fiancé Enrique Martín Llop were attempting to obtain a ruling based on what the media might do, not what they had already done.

The couple therefore now has the possibility of attempting to rein in the media through the more usual channel of suing any newspapers, websites or TV stations that they think they can prove have already invaded their privacy.

"Telma Ortiz should have invoked not only the issue of who has the right to use her image, but also how her privacy is affected, because that is what's really at stake," Tapia notes. "Nonetheless, the basic arguments make sense."

But with Ortiz's case over - at a cost to her of EUR 50,000 in court expenses - those arguments may well be stirring debate for some time to come.

text by El Pais / M. C. Belaza / A. E. / Expatica
photos by Google

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