Journalism in the Public Interest: Definitions and Interpretations in Journalism Ethics and Law

Author: Rok Čeferin, Melita Poler


The literature on journalism ethics and law contains no generally shared definition of what constitutes the public interest. The goal of this article is to establish the positions on the public interest taken by three courts – that is, the European Court of Human Rights, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia, and the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia – in order to discern whether case law has provided more specific guidelines for understanding what journalism in the public interest actually means. Based on our analysis, we propose a broad definition whereby information in the public interest refers to data so objectively important to society that the public’s right to be informed about such data outweighs a human right or freedom, or a private or public interest, which would otherwise demand that the data not be disclosed to the public. Information in the public interest can be part of political, economic, social, religious, or any other contexts. The essence of the public interest is that it concerns an important matter, the importance of which can only be evaluated on a caseby-case basis, taking into account all of the circumstances of a particular case.

Key words: Constitutional court, European Court of Human Rights, journalism, Journalism ethics, Public interest
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