Andrew Marr, the BBC senior journalist has admitted that he felt “uneasy” over seeking a super-injunction to prevent the reporting of his extra-marital affair 8 years ago. He has now relented and allowed the cat out of the bag.
Other high profile BBC presenters and journalists have been identified on the grapevine of twitter and blog sites of obtaining these super-injunctions allowing the rich and famous to gag the press and any discussion whatsoever over their affairs. One injunction has even stated that the injunction is against the “whole world” making it the most widespread and indiscriminate injunction yet.
David Cameron unwisely waded in earlier in the week when he stated that Parliament should be the body that decides on privacy rather than the judiciary. Of course this concept is completely inaccurate. In one sense Parliament has already ruled on this by incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights and allowing the courts to make judgements on whether information has a right to be private or is in the public interest for people to know. Balancing these 2 articles of the convention, between a right to family life and press freedom is difficult (articles 8 and 10). Parliament by sanctioning this convention HAS given it’s consent.
The problems with privacy laws goes to the heart of democracy and open society. On the one hand deciding what is “of interest to the public” and what is “in the public interest” are 2 different things. People do have a right to privacy for their families. However, we do not want to stifle investigative journalism and freedom of speech which is important to the way our democracy works. Yet the title tattle and dishonesty of journalists that we have seen over the phone hacking scandal calls into question what really is in the public interest.
Andrew Marr has created a new problem in that he is someone who is meant to seek out the hypocrisy and untruths politicians tell us yet has nullified the press in reporting on his own private life. It puts him in a difficult position which he now acknowledges.
The libel laws in this country are also a sham, as the libel tourism shows by the rich and famous. The super-injunction culture has now got out of control when Fred Goodwin can get an injunction to prevent people calling him a Banker!
One of the problems as pointed out by Ian Hislop is that Judges are often happy to impose the injunctions siding with the establishment and privacy. While it is generally only the rich who can afford representation to either sue publications or seek the injunction allowing ordinary mortals to be out in the cold and open to the bad treatment that the rich seek to avoid.
Maybe this whole issue is becoming null and void anyway, as the internet is the real guardian of freedom of speech. It only takes about 20 minutes to find the names of the most talked about footballers, TV presenters and actors that are rumoured to have sought injunctions.
Whatever happens, what we MUST ensure is that those with money and power can be held to account for their wrong doing. On that basis I would have to come down on the side of public interest and press freedom pretty much every time.