Over the past few weeks all the press seem to have been talking about is what they’re not allowed to talk about. The hot topic in newspapers and on news items turned into somewhat of a guessing game for the general public after editors and broadcasters had to navigate the minefield of the Celebrity Super-Injunction.
Best explained a ‘Celebrity Super Injunction’ is effectively a gagging order, which legally prevents the media from reporting the details of a certain story pertaining to that celebrity’s private life, and what’s more, further prevents the media from acknowledging the injunction exists in the first place. Or put more simply, a violation of free speech? You bet’cha.
Trying to take Super Injunctions one step further and curb press freedom a little bit more is ex Formula 1 boss Max Mosley. If Mosley had his way the media would be bound by law to inform public figures well in advance of a story breaking about their private lives giving them an opportunity to seek a Super Injunction preventing the story ever seeing the light. In effect, forcing the press to gag itself. WTF? Thankfully this campaign has so far been rejected.
I fully appreciate the UK privacy law which states that everyone has a right to a private and family life but celebrities, have to some degree, surrendered this right when choosing their career. Nobody forced these people into the public eye, it was a conscious choice that they themselves made. If they believe that surrendering their privacy is too higher price to pay they can always fade into obscurity and get a normal 9 to 5. But that’s not likely is it? Because they want to enjoy the privileges but they don’t want to ride the waves. You can’t have it all ways (although they like to think they can.)
Correct me if I’m wrong but in recognising the right to privacy you also have to recognise the right to freedom of speech and expression. What’s more, this country is supposed to enjoy the advantages of a free press that is unencumbered by censorship restrictions.
Nowadays however it would appear that if you are rich enough and famous enough there is nothing your money can’t buy including the silence of the British press and the compliance of the justice system. If celebrities are believed to be above the law it’s probably because they usually are. If £50,000 is nothing more than spare change you can carry the law around in your back pocket, for less fortunate mere mortals you have to put up, shut up and face the music. Sound fair to you?
Super Injunctions have come to the forefront of press attention after a recent spate of celebrities said to include TV personalities, actors, footballers, broadcasters etc have scrambled for an injunction to protect their various indiscretions. In the middle of one such media shitstorm is ex Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, who in her own words, has been “thrown to the lions” after her six month affair with a married premier league footballer was exposed. While you can undoubtedly question the morals of this young woman in carrying out an affair with a married man the blame doesn’t lie solely at her feet. In fact she is only responsible for the minority of the blame. You see, in my opinion, while what she did was naively stupid she herself had no ties, she was a free agent. To carry out the affair she didn’t have to lie to her family and crap all over the institution of marriage. The responsibility for that lies at his feet. And when the affair came out in the open (as all dirty little secrets have a habit of doing) he, like a coward, paid for a court order banning the media from revealing his identity while she was left alone to face a media onslaught and public humiliation. The injunction was said to have been put in place to ‘protect his family’ but I cant help believe he would have been better served in protecting his family if he had kept his hands to himself and his you know what in his trousers.
However thanks to a Twitter campaign devoted to revealing the names of certain celebs hiding behind super injunctions and a politician blurting out his name under the protection of parliamentary privilege the love rat was exposed, proving that where there’s a will there’s a way.
Now I’m probably opening a can of worms here and going slightly off topic but the other day I saw a debate on ITV’s This Morning (where they were discussing Super Injunctions and the case of Imogen Thomas) that got me all wound up. The wife of a footballer who had cheated in the past was berating the wannabe WAG’s who make it their mission to carry out affairs with married footballers. The footballers wife was lashing into these women claiming they have the morals of an ally cat and to some extent I agree. But what of the wife’s role in all this? Surely it’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black? Now before you all jump on me for suggesting that poor unsuspecting wives are to blame for their husband’s dirty behaviour I would ask you to read on, as I’m clearly not suggesting any such thing. Alls I’m saying is those WAG’s who choose to stand by their man, and ignore their infidelity and indiscretions while being publicly humiliated don’t really have a platform to preach from do they? They choose to keep the money and the lifestyle rather than walk away with their head held high and their dignity and self-respect in tact. So what of their morals? It takes two to tango.
So why do people care? And why is it so important for the media to be able to report on such matters? Simple. Public interest. The public put these people in their privileged positions. These celebs are laughing all the way to the bank with money that YOU have spent on match/show/film/concert tickets, merchandise, music, books, fashion lines, etc So if they are selling a false image you can bet your ass it’s within the public interest to know about it.
What makes me laugh is the blatant stupidity and arrogance of these celebrities. They think that if they have enough money they can do what or whom they like and keep it hushed up. But these things will always come back and bite you on the arse. Give someone enough rope and they will hang themselves. If these celebrities behaved themselves they wouldn’t have anything to worry about and the press wouldn’t have a story. In this day and age a secret is never a secret for long especially if you’re in the public eye. You’d have thought they’d have learnt this by now. The things that people want kept in the dark always have a way of finding the light eventually, and I for one support the press’ role in helping stories within the public interest to find the light.
If the story can be proven to be true and the facts are correct then why shouldn’t it be reported? Who has the right to curb free speech? As a journalist I’m proud to say that this country operates a free press. The only worry is, for how long?