The coverage of the John Terry injunction saga has been eclectic but light on analysis. In the immediate aftermath, a number of articles hailed the decision as a great victory for free speech, see for example John Kampfner’s “John Terry’s attempt to gag a free press” in the Daily Mail and similar articles in the Guardian and Telegraph. Click here to see the full article.
However, Foot Anstey, a leading firm of media lawyers who act for the regional media, have published an interest discussion of the case on the regional media website, Hold the FrontPage. They caution against reading too much into the decision since:
“Terry’s case was primarily a refusal to grant an injunction on the basis that the application was procedurally and evidentially flawed. No prior notice had been given to any interested media organisations and the judge felt the application was more an attempt to protect Terry’s reputation and the financial interests of his commercial sponsors than to protect privacy.
Second, the judge made it clear that if he had been presented with evidence of a threat to publish “any intrusive details” about Terry’s alleged affair, he might well have granted a privacy injunction. And as things stand, Terry remains technically free to sue for damages for infringement of privacy over the salacious coverage that has ensued.”
Despite this, they suggest that the ruling suggests that morality is back at the heart of our privacy law and that it has given the media scope for raising public interest defences for reports about allegedly immoral personal behaviour, including even ‘kiss and tell’ stories. The full article can be found here.
It certainly seems that some parts of the media have taken this suggestion literally, as the Terry revelations were shortly followed by revelations about the private lives of others. However, not everyone in the media considers this new purported “freedom to expose immorality” to be a positive step. Former editor Peter Preston has wondered in the Observer whether the Terry decision represents a
“Freedom to criticise or freedom to humiliate” “Freedom is a noble cause, one worth fighting for, but, when all’s said and duly exposed, it is only about humiliating minor soccer characters for the equally minor thrill of it? ”
The full article can be found here. The attention of readers is drawn to a number of other interesting articles about the Terry decision.