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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Clayton Utz calls it straight on privacy and some in the media

Whoever wrote "The right to know..what?" for Clayton Utz law firm knows a thing or two, and not just about the laws on privacy. A couple of extracts:
"One sees more items in the media in defence of "the public's right to know" than items expressing concern about intrusions into the private lives of individuals. Invoking slogans such as the "public's right to know" or the protection of "freedom of speech" tends to obscure the real debate rather than advance it. What precisely is it that the public has a right to know? Surely there are limits? Proposals by law reformers for the introduction of a statutory right of privacy would obviously not shut out the media altogether. The level of protection will vary depending on whether you are a public or private figure and the extent of the intrusion.

It is also alarmist to suggest that the introduction of a right of privacy would prevent reporting on scoundrels, shonky business people or those whose public personae is at odds with the reality of their private lives. It would not. Inevitably were a right of privacy introduced it would lead to legal cases about the extent of such right. Serious journalism has nothing to fear from such cases. Gossip, voyeurism and other light entertainment would likely fair less well."

The article is dated 13 March- before the current controversy over "those photos"- and while the Hanson event might not prove to be the tipping point, this was a prescient conclusion:

"The greatest degree of certainty on this issue would arise from the intervention of government. What might provoke governments into action would be an egregious overstepping of the mark by the media in reporting on a matter which, whilst substantially true, is of an inherently private and personal nature. Pray it isn't you or one of your friends or family members who suffers such intrusion. But when it occurs, we will then likely see limits placed on the "public's right to know".

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