You can read the speech for yourself here (it went online before he’d even delivered it, doing the conscientious live tweeters out of a job), but I thought it worth flagging up a couple of Alan Rusbridger’s comments from last night’s Anthony Sampson lecture at City University London.
Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, rightly discussed the law’s relationship with journalism in context of the wider media picture, including, the phone hacking saga (and the PCC’s “feeble” attempt to investigate it).
“Can all these discussions all take place in isolation from each other? Can you really discuss libel and privacy without also asking whether self-regulation actually works? Can you pull at the tangled issues of libel without considering how you define the public interest in privacy cases?”
On privacy he was measured, resisting the current super injunctions hysteria, and it was satisfying to hear him acknowledge the difference between injunctions whose existence you cannot report and basic anonymous privacy injunctions (as I’ve been helping the Inforrm blog to establish). Rusbridger said:
“The Guardian has never yet been sued under any kind of privacy law. There have been general injunctions, which bind us, like anyone else. There have been actions over confidence. And I stand ready to be outraged at the first time someone sues us over an invasion of privacy. But, as I say, it hasn’t yet happened.”
Nonetheless, Rusbridger is clearly concerned by the privacy muddle. He also touched on the newspapers’ fickle approach to the public interest (something to do with rivalry between titles, I suspect…):
“… indeed, it’s worth asking: where was the front page outrage when a judge ordered the blatant tax-avoiding strategies of a major bank to be taken off the web? What about Trafigura’s attempt to gag parliament? It made it to p 21 of the Times and p14 of the Telegraph. We sometimes send confusing signals about what we really care about.”
I’ll leave you with one of his props: the political register of William Cobbett; a hobby of his is “to collect reminders of that British struggle – a universal struggle, of course, but one that began here.”
“I keep these books in my office as a reminder of the power of journalism – how, when properly deployed, it can be the most amazing challenger of power and agent of change. Think, 200 years on from Cobbett, to the disruptive power of WikiLeaks.”