Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Privacy vs Freedom of Speech

I could have switched radio stations when BBC Radio 4's Law in Action came on the air and probably should have done. Instead I sat in late afternoon traffic on the Chichester by-pass and listened to F1 supremo Max Mosley attempt to justify why journalistic freedom should be sacrificed in order to keep his bedroom antics private.

I remain unconvinced by what he said although he did try. He pleaded that what the News of the World claimed he did and he sued them for, was nothing to do with anyone but him because he had not set himself up as anyone's moral conscience.

The problem is, a certain amount of damage has already been done to media freedom and he is determined to extend it. He mentioned that France has a rather different view, and laws about, of the private life of public people and would like to gag the British media in a similar way.

Now, if so-called celebrities like models, football players and TV presenters manage to make fools of themselves and be shown in the red-tops in all their dubious glory, that is fine with me. They court publicity most of the time, and really have little right to moan when the paparazzi catch them in an off-moment.

What we do not want in the UK is for the media to be prevented from exposing public figures who set themselves up as morally superior then behave in a hypocritical fashion. Nor do we want anyone who has committed a crime to be permitted to hide behind a privacy law in order to escape justice.

Maybe the real problem is that we are all hypocrites to some degree. We say we want freedom of the press, but we don't want pictures of our little peccadilloes decorating the front pages. It's a fine line, but I feel that our civil liberties are being removed at such a rate, the UK needs every right of free speech it can retain in order that someone can speak out when Government goes one step too far in snooping into our private lives.

So, no Mr Mosley, I don't think you should have won all that money in damages and I certainly don't believe that your privacy should be even more protected in the future.