Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Media Law - Confidentiality and privacy

The law is always changing, and in a couple of months everything I am writing today, could well be wrong.

 Article 8 of the Human Rights Act
Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act
Freedom of expression - You have the right to say and have your own opinions

Privacy is mainly an issue that is found within the lives of celebrities and people in the public eye. So we are not able, as journalists, to go around publishing photographs of people, in their everyday life, without consent; or publishing secrets about anybody, celebrity or not, unless there is a defence for doing so. The main defence of invasion of privacy would be PUBLIC INTEREST. So for example, if Wayne Rooney was photographed taking bribes before England took to the field against San Marino, then it would be well within the public interest to publish these photos without fear of being sued for invasion of privacy. On the other hand, if you were to take photos of Wayne Rooney through his living room window watching 'Brokeback Mountain', it would be deemed an invasion of his privacy, as it is up to him if he wants to watch certain films, and he has the right to do that privately.

So what defines PUBLIC INTEREST?
- Detecting or exposing crime: (Example: David Cameron selling marijuana)
- Protecting public health and safety (Example: discovering that your next door neighbour is plotting a terrorist attack)
- Preventing the public interest from being misled by an action or a statement

 *** Official Secrets Act *** These are put in place to protect National Security - There is no Public Interest defence. This is something that can come into play in the everyday life of a journalist. For example, if a journalist was doing a piece to camera with an army barracks in the background, they could be in breach of breaking the official secrets act, as it could provide necessary secret information to the enemy. So journalists have to be careful of their surroundings.

Newspapers (especially tabloids), often print stories that are against the laws of privacy and confidentiality. The most notorious and recent case of this was Max Mosley and the News of the World. Mosley was accused by the newspaper of taking part in a 'sick Nazi orgy' with prostitutes in his apartment in Chelsea. Mosley believed that he had an expectation of privacy, and he was right. You are in breach of someones confidence if you can identify all four of the following points:
1) Necessary quality of confidence - NOT TITTLE-TATTLE! So you will not be in breach of confidence if you are telling your boss that your colleague picks his nose and eats it.
2) The information is provided in circumstances imposing an obligation to privacy - So if you are in someones home and not in the park or a cafe. ***I WILL COME BACK TO THIS****
3) No permission to pass on the information
4) Detriment to be caused to the person

What News of the World thought, is that there would be no way that Mosley would want to stand up in court going through all the sordid details of his 'orgy' in front of a jury and journalists who would be publishing the findings in the next mornings papers. They were wrong. Mosley did just that and it was found that Mosley had the right to a privacy in this case - winning £60,000.

The case of Princess Caroline: I said I would come back to point 2 - in 2004 Princess Caroline was photographed eating in a public restaurant to which she sued and won, with the outcome from the European Court of Human Rights stating that this was a violation of Article 8, and that just because you are in a public place, it does not mean that you have the right to take photos of them or film them. However, there has been a more recent update to this, in February 2012 the court has now decided that papers should be allowed to publish photos and stories of well-known people. In conclusion, it is clear that the line between Article 8 and 10 is always being moved, and there is never going to be a straight ruling into this. And with the outcome of the Leveson inquiry soon approaching, it is clear that there will be possibly the biggest shift in rules ever, possibly making it even harder for journalists.

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