Privacy v Freedom of Speech

Does the media have the right to publish stories about the private lives of people in the public eye? If so, when? And how do we balance the needs of innocent parties in all this?

Andrew Marr’s announcement that he obtained a super-injunction to bury the news of his affair with another married journalist has thrown yet more flames onto the debate around the right to privacy here in the UK.

For my part, I am just not that interested in the sexual shenanigans of the rich and famous. Actually scrub that – I am interested. Whenever a story breaks I end up listening to it on the news, talking about it with friends and family, and following it on twitter. But just because I am interested, does that really make it in the public interest?

For me the answer is generally ‘No’ and, specifically on the issue of the people’s private lives, I would welcome an assumption of privacy with exceptions for:

– Those who make financial gain trading on their ‘wholesome’ family life (Tiger Woods as an example)

– Those who preach about family values and judge others. (Numerous politicians fit here)

– Those who ‘sell’ their story (e.g. Kerry Katona et al) should not expect protection if other parties choose to do the same, or journalists discover related stories.

I am sure others may have other exclusions they wish to add, the point is the principle of an assumption of privacy unless there is a compelling counter-argument. This is not just to protect the celebrity and their privacy but, most importantly to protect the innocent victims – partners and children in particular.

It is a matter of priority that parliament debate and legislate for this – clarifying and adding to the Human Rights Thus stopping judges interpreting an ambiguous section of the law to the point they are effectively making new law themselves.

As for Andrew Marr, well I am a bit torn… There is an argument that by publicly commenting that super-injunctions were damaging to freedom of speech and then seeking one for himself was hypocritical to the point that, under my idea, newspapers would have the right to publish what they liked about him. However, I don’t really see it like that – he has never sold himself, as far as I am aware, on being a strong family man, nor has he judged others for failing to be – as a journalist he clearly has a view on privacy which he stated, but I am not sure this is enough for him to be relieved of any right to privacy, especially when a child is involved. Being an idiot and sleeping around should bring with it the scorn of your friends and family, not that of the media commentators and, by extension, every household in Britain.

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One comment

  1. It makes you wonder how on Earth he could be effective in his job as a reporter when he himself is involved in a conspiracy to hide the truth from other journalists.

    There’s also the worrying issue of people in the public eye who are totally free of scandal yet who are victims of unwelcome rumours and are unable to clear their names and restore their reputations by actually naming the guilty person who has taken out the injunction.

    There is no freedom of speech in England.

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