On Sunday 17 February 2013 the “Daily Telegraph” published an article entitled, “Hugh Grant: Here’s the latest on my private life”. This disingenuous piece purports to highlight the supposed hypocrisy of Mr Grant, who is a board member of Hacked Off and campaigns against press intrusion, in announcing the birth of his son on twitter. The article says
“Hugh Grant was so angered by the tabloids’ alleged intrusion into his private life that he became a campaigner for state regulation of the press. On Saturday, however, the foppish actor used a social-networking website to disclose that Tinglan Hong, the mother of his daughter, Tabitha, had given birth to their second child.”
Quite apart from the fact that, as others have noted, there is a marked difference between choosing to reveal personal information on social media and privacy intrusion by the press, the article appears to be deliberately misleading.
As the original tweet makes clear, Mr Grant’s tweet was in response to requests made by “some journos” for information about the birth. A second tweet explains that the announcement was made after the press had somehow obtained a copy of the baby’s birth certificate, with Mr Grant hoping that his family would now be “left in peace”.
Yet this information is not mentioned at all in the article; Mr Grant’s tweet is quoted, but the reference to the press asking questions is edited out. Instead, it is suggested that the “conveniently timed” announcement was engineered to stir up publicity for Mr Grant’s latest film – with the clear implication that this is another case of celebrity hypocrisy, using private matters for career advancement. No mention is made of the press obtaining the birth certificate. In short, an attempt to head off press intrusion is transformed into a piece of self-promotion.
Mr Grant is no stranger to negative press attention. In November 2011, just as the Leveson Inquiry was preparing to hear the evidence of Mr Grant (and other victims of press harassment) the Daily Mail published this scornful attack. As this blog commented at the time, the timing of the article rather suggests that its publication was motivated by a desire to intimidate Mr Grant, and by extension others who dared to challenge the press.
Later that same month Ting Lan Hong, the mother of Mr Grant’s children, was granted an injunction prohibiting the harassment of herself and her daughter by paparazzi photographers. The case was covered by this blog here. Ms Hong was subjected to intense media attention including a number incidents of harassment and intimidation, such as being followed and photographed without consent. Shortly after Mr Grant appeared on BBC Question Time talking about phone hacking, Ms Hong received a number of abusive telephone calls eventually forcing her to change her mobile number.
As this blog noted on Sunday, it seems that the bitter fight against effective press regulation continues. It is hard not to view this latest article as part of a wider campaign by some sections of the press to use misinformation in order to intimidate and undermine anyone who has the temerity to challenge them.
Eloise le Santo is a trainee barrister at Matrix Chambers.