Court Says Sauna Romp With Cops Was Private

     (CN) – Five Moldavian women should have gotten more compensation over violation of their privacy rights through the televised broadcast of their “sauna romp” with police officers, the European Court of Human Rights ruled.
     The five women, three of whom were journalists, had objected to footage from a private party being aired on national television in 2003. Of the five, one was a teacher and the other a librarian. All lived in the nation’s capital, Chisinau.
     The investigative reporters captured on film claimed that the police officers provided them with material for stories. They allegedly first made contact after one officer was arrested on corruption charges some months before.
     The video showed the women “apparently intoxicated, in a sauna in their underwear, with two of them kissing and touching one of the men, and one of them performing an erotic dance,” the court summarized.
     Though the broadcast footage obscured the men’s identities, the women were clearly identifiable. The footage aired as part of a program about corruption in journalism.
     The women claimed that the police had secretly filmed the sauna romp to blackmail the journalists into not publishing an article about illegal activity at the police agency.
     Although the women were unsuccessful on their defamation claims, the national court found that their rights to privacy had been violated. The Moldavian courts also said there was insufficient evidence to convict the police agency of wrongdoing in illegally recording the party.
     The National Television Service was ordered to pay each woman about $150 to $300 for the violations.
     This was far too little, the Strasbourg-based human rights tribunal ruled. That a violation occurred was not disputed, the court pointed out, since the Moldavian Supreme Court had ruled in the women’s favor.
     The human rights court ordered damages more in proportion to such interference in the intimate sphere of life, from $6,000 to $7,000 per person. The court also awarded around $2,000 for costs.
     Moldova, formerly a part of the USSR, is in southeastern Europe between Romania and the Ukraine. The European Convention on Human Rights went into effect there at the beginning of 1997.

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