The twit who tweeted about which wealthy people had taken out super-injunctions to gag the press has certainly stirred up some controversy, even though he (she?) seems to have got some of his facts wrong. For instance he claimed that Jemima Khan had taken out such an injunction to prevent publication of prurient photos of her and Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of the BBC’s TV show Top Gear; but Jemima says it’s not true, and it appears that the twit had been confused because Jemima and her brother Zac Goldsmith (a dickhead who inherited lots of money) got a super-injunction in 2008 to prevent publication of emails from “hacked” accounts.
Goldsmith has taken advantage of the controversy to suggest that Britain needs a proper privacy law to prevent inappropriate disclosure of people’s private lives. But of course he would. The real reason why these super-injunctions are wrong is because they are used to gag the press to a horrendous degree. Anyone who’s rich enough to get such an injunction (and believe me, it’s only the rich who can afford these measures) can not only silence the press, they even prevent the press from reporting that the injunction has been taken out! An example of the extreme effects of super-injunctions is when the oil trading company Trafigura stopped the Guardian newspaper from mentioning in any way a scientific report on Trafigura’s horrendous waste dumping in west Africa.
Of course, rich assholes like Goldsmith say that the Trafigura case is an exception, and that private citizens need to be able to keep their private lives private. Media lawyer Charlotte Harris says the stories subject to super-injunctions were quite often cases of “nasty blackmail”. She said: “You should be allowed to end a relationship with somebody, whether you are married or not, without having that person say ‘right, I’m going to go to the paper, I’m going to destroy your life, I’m going to tell everybody every intimate thing about you’. You should have some protection.”
The way she puts it, it all sounds so reasonable. Everyone’s entitled to a private life, surely? But these super-injunctions go far beyond what is reasonable. For a start, they are only available to the rich. And why do these gagging orders need to ban reporting that a gagging order has been imposed? These injunctions are not about protecting people’s private lives. They are a mechanism to censor the press. The courts allow these super-injunctions when the stories involved are not “in the public interest”. But who decides what is or is not in the public interest? A judge, listening to an expensive lawyer who’s in the same clubs as the judge and who possibly sodomises the judge on a regular basis.
So super-injunctions are wrong. But what will replace them? Should we have a privacy law like Zac Goldsmith suggests? I say no. Britain already has ridiculously stern libel laws. That should be enough for those who feel they need “protecting”. Let the press report their stories: if they are false, the injured party can sue them for libel. And if the stories are true? Well, if they’re true, they’re true, and the press should be free to tell us things that are true. If the individuals involved are ashamed of what they’ve done, that’s an issue they’ll have to sort out with their analysts. If they don’t want us to know about their sins, they shouldn’t sin. Pretty simple really.
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