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There is a detail in Article 12 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights that I find interesting:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

While it is clear how "privacy", "family", "home", and "correspondence" are tied to the idea of private sphere, the concept of "honor and reputation" doesn't seem to fit neatly into that category.

Firstly, one could argue that a person's "honor and reputation" belongs exclusively in the public sphere, since it describes how the public perceives them. To put it in another way, it is probably impossible to have a "private reputation".

Secondly, while a person can invade someone's privacy for the purpose of damaging their reputation (e.g. digging up dirt on someone), they can also achieve the same outcome without invasion of privacy (e.g. spreading defamatory lies about someone).

We see this played out in Article II-67 of EU Charter too, where the article is basically identical to its counterpart in UDHR, except they have taken out words related to "honor and reputation", probably because they find the concepts not related enough.

Question: To what extent is "right to privacy" related to "right to good name / reputation"? If they do not belong together, how would one categorize the right to reputation in a hypothetical bill of right?

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    Defaming someone interferes with their rights to do some things. There is the aspect of financial loss (e.g. you lose your job) but there is also the ability to participate in society from day to day, to enjoy the respect of your family and friends, to have people listen to you and interact respectfully, to not be viewed as a pervert or criminal by your peers. Your question is so vague I can't really answer it (do you want a historical account of why the clause is like this, or do you imagine a genealogy/taxonomy of rights?) but maybe think about what is being protected.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 12:50
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    Honestly, this is just poorly phrased on the part of UDHR. This phrasing could be construed to mean that virtually any criticism - legitimate or not and regardless of whether sincerely believed by the speaker - is a violation of human rights. Clearly, such a claim would itself be a violation of human rights (namely, freedom of expression.)
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 18:08
  • @reirab UDHR has limitation clauses at the very end of the document, specifying that each right can only be limited for the purpose of balancing with other rights, so I think that issue is covered - just not very obviously. Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 11:48
  • If I understood how that was about Politics, rather than Law, still I'd be asking how 'privacy' and 'good name/reputation' were the same. Can you explain how they are not different? Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 21:24

2 Answers 2

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The linkage is in the consequences of this clause. These rights imply restrictions on what the press (and in the days of the internet, we are all press) can publish about a person.

So if a newspaper prints photographs of someone naked, in a space that they could reasonably expect to be private, they are infringing this right to privacy. If the newspaper prints false claims that a person has committed a crime, they are infringing the right not to have attacks on their reputation.

Both situations involve limitations on the Article 19 freedom of expression.

Ultimately the grouping into articles is a convenience, it wouldn't change the legal effect if this article were to be split.

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Firstly, one could argue that a person's "honor and reputation" belongs exclusively in the public sphere, since it describes how the public perceives them. To put it in another way, it is probably impossible to have a "private reputation".

The problem is that "public" is not a binary. Like there is a difference between your reputation among the people who know you personally and "public" with respect to a local, communal, national or even global audience, who's perception of you might ironically not be shaped by you, but by the perspective of the people reporting about you. Even if they just role the camera on you, the framing and context that they create is what will stick with the people that have no other context.

Both of which are technically public, but one is something that you cannot avoid, you will leave an impression on other people one way or another if you want that or not, while the latter is/should be subject to ethical standards.

One example might perhaps be the question of whether or not a name of a criminally accused should be mentioned or whether a conviction status should be publicized. Like do you have a right to "not play a role in other people's lives if you don't play a role in those people's lives"?

Secondly, while a person can invade someone's privacy for the purpose of damaging their reputation (i.e. digging up dirts on someone), they can also achieve the same outcome without invasion of privacy (e.g. spreading defamatory lies about someone).

The point is that this (the second part) IS still an invasion of their privacy. Like if you gossip about another person you put the spotlight on them and if you defame them you can force them to make their life public, because you force them to defend themselves, which presumably they can only do by "telling the truth", that is open up their private lives to have you own look at it. So as a result their privacy is gone, either because people have an increased unreasonable interest in their private lives or because they have to open it up themselves just to disperse rumors about them that might even be worse.

Though I guess James K has a point that this is likely intended to be an article concerning the press where general rules for publication are listed and which could also have been split into other groupings, such as covering defamation under "human dignity is inviolable" or a more specific version of that. But as shown it's not entirely out of place either with regards to the effect of the privacy of the individual.

Also the word "arbitrary" likely carries a lot of weight or rather acts as a backdoor in terms of allowing all kinds of reporting with regard to privacy if there is a vested interest of the public.

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