Press Wise backs judge's kiss-and-tell clampdown

The PressWise Trust, the organisation that supports individuals against the press, has applauded Mr Justice Jack’s ruling banning kiss-and-tell revelations in newspapers – and jibed at editors whose own sexual peccadillos never appear in the press.

The trust speculated that there would be "much wailing and gnashing of teeth in tabloid newsrooms" following the granting of the injunction, which prevents the Sunday People publishing a kiss-and-tell story about a married professional footballer and his sexual transgressions.

PressWise said: "The inevitable cries have gone up, deploring this supposed blow to press freedom. But is this really such a blow? All Mr Justice Jack is saying is that media intrusion should stop at the bedroom door, and even then that ‘the precise ambit of the law’s protection would depend on the circumstances of each case".

"In other words, newspapers would still be able to contest an injunction on the grounds of genuine public interest – as opposed to that which is believed to interest the public. It may mean a delay of a couple of days in publication, but if the public interest is justified it can still be served."

Bill Norris, associate director of the organisation, said: "Of the huge array of public figures whose sexual transgressions have enlivened the tabloids (and boosted their profits) over the past few decades, few, if any, have been newspaper editors. Is this because they have superior moral standards to those of the celebrities they pillory? Do editors take a vow of abstinence? Are they, perhaps, eunuchs?

"Or is there a more simple explanation: that, like almost everyone else, they believe that their private lives are a private matter, and that luckily they are in a position to protect that privacy."

Dismissing the suggestion that Mr Justice Jack’s ruling would fatally impede investigative reporting, Norris asked: "What is ‘investigative’ about paying or persuading (or even, on occasion, blackmailing) someone to tell all about their affair with a footballer, rock star or whoever?

"True investigative reporting has long been on the decline in the British press, largely abandoned because it is held to be expensive, uncertain of result and at danger from oppressive laws of libel.

"Perhaps, now that the good judge has cleared some space on the tabloid pages, there will be room for some truly worthwhile investigative material in the genuine public interest."

By Jean Morgan

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