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Former PM: Protection of privacy is a right worth fighting for

Following the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to reject an appeal by the author and publisher of a kiss-and-tell book about former Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen, Vanhanen spoke out for individual rights to privacy.

Matti Vanhanen.
Matti Vanhanen. Image: Yle

Former prime minister Matti Vanhanen says that he feels that the European Court of Human Rights made a good ruling on right to privacy issues.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal by the author and publisher of an intimate, detail-revealing book _The Prime Minister's Bride _by the prime minister's ex-girlfriend. The author and publisher had claimed that a Finnish high court ruling against them was an infringement of their freedom of expression.

In a judgement handed down on Tuesday, the Council of Europe's court in Strasbourg, France, said that the book about former prime minister Matti Vanhanen did indeed violate his right to privacy.

According to Vanhanen, the European Court of Human Right's decision is similar to the Finnish Supreme Court's 2010 ruling.

"In essence, it's the same at its core: people in positions of power have the right to the protection of privacy," says Vanhanen.

The book was originally published in 2007, during Vanhanen's prime ministerial term. Later that year, authorities filed charges against Susan Ruusunen and the book's publisher, Kari Ojala, for disclosing information about the prime minister's private life.

"The media was the other party"

In 2010, the Finnish Supreme Court ruled that Ruusunen and Ojala had violated the prime minister's right to privacy.

According to Vanhanen, many others whose privacy has been violated do not embark on a similar legal process for fear of publicity.

"I knew this would last for years and be very public, with the media making the most out of all the details. In this situation, the media was the other party," says Vanhanen.

Vanhanen believes that the European Court of Human Rights decision has broader significance.

"The possibilities for people to obtain information about other people and abuse them have become more common. It's important that people start to respect the right to privacy and remember that according to the Constitution, everyone's right to a private life is guaranteed. But it's not something that you can take for granted, you need to fight for it," says Vanhanen.

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