United Kingdom

Can’t gag the gagging orders debate

Published on 25 May 2011 at 10:16

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“The untold story of gagging orders,” headlines the Independent, continuing the national debate on superinjunctions - court orders issued mainly by the rich and famous that prevent the media from publishing information about their private lives or revealing their identities. Now that Twitter users have exploded a £150,000 (€173,134) gagging order issued by footballer Ryan Giggs over an alleged affair with a model, the London daily reveals that “333 gagging orders protecting the identities of celebrities, children and private individuals have been granted in the past five years.” These include “28 men accused of extra-marital affairs and nine cases where convicted criminals have been granted anonymity” but also seven major companies, which “prevent publication of allegations about their commercial affairs.”

Now that Ryan Giggs’ lawyers have launched legal proceedings against Twitter, the debate on privacy vs freedom of expression continues to rage. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Lord Wakeham, the former chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, describes the rash of privacy injunctionsgranted by the courts as “intolerable”, and calls for changes to the UK’s 1998 Human Rights Act, whose provisions leave “judges the power to decide what the public should and should not know.” Wakeham calls on parliament to amend the law so that judges can only grant injunctions where issues “impact on public authorities and the State”.

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