The discussion around super injunctions provides the tabloids with an easy ‘get out’ argument. The debate about whether the super-rich should use their money to gain privacy that a mere mortal on the average salary could not enjoy is clearly a valid one. It’s easy to bash the rich. In fact bashing successful people is practically a national sport in the UK. The debate though around the need for injunctions or super injunctions. I am not suggesting that the tabloids be given free rein to report whatever topic they see fit but rather that we re-examine the principle of privacy rather than public interest.
|The Public Interest Justification is
Overused to the detriment of privacy
(Image ©Sean MacEntee)
The public interest argument is one that is parroted all the time when the injunction issue is raised in public debate. Should a politician who is standing on a family friendly ticket be exposed for extra marital dalliances? That is probably a matter of public interest since it shows that he (sic) is not practicing what he is preaching. Even that of course doesn’t mean that their political statement is flawed but we will let that go. The problem is that having established that right to report on the MP, that right seems to then be transferred to any public figure. The same argument cannot be used to apply to a footballer or sportsman apart from in exceptional circumstances perhaps. Tiger Woods could be argued to have made money from sponsorship from his clean cut image for example. The real cases of public interest are few and far between though – not all politicians fall into this category, very few sportsman or celebrities do.
Even where there is public interest it does not give an excuse to report on anything else. Salacious kiss and tell stories do not address the public interest angle or at least only obliquely. Finding out that a politician wore his Chelsea shirt in bed adds nothing to any argument that we must know that a particular stated principle is being breached.
Which leads on to the privacy issue. These arguments all centre round affairs, sexual liasons etc. The real problem is much lower level than that. Through the years, the public have come to expect a public intrusion into celebrities lives. Public intrusion which, in any other walk of life would be a criminal matter. As a example, a photo appeared in one of tabloids last week of an Olympic rower changing after a race. The photo was professionally taken – not just snapped by a passer-by so clearly the photographer had been waiting for this opportunity. If someone stalked me or you in this manner, taking unauthorised candid pictures, is that not a matter for the local constabulary? And yet this event just passes by with a self depreciating comment by the celebrity on Twitter.
We all have a right to privacy. As set out above, there are very few examples where that privacy should be breached as a matter of public interest. The need for injunctions, super or otherwise should therefore be slight. Unfortunately though, until it is not seen as perfectly normal for photographers to creep around in bushes taking unauthorised pictures, the need for protection remains.