Date: 24 May 2011
NEWS that a select committee is to be set up to look into the question of injunctions and super-injunctions has been welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Journalists.
The move was announced in the House of Commons on Monday (May 23) by attorney general Dominic Grieve, in response to a question tabled by John Whittingdale MP, chair of the committee for Culture, Media and Sport.
Mr Whittingdale referred to the case of a famous footballer who it is claimed has taken out such an injunction to prevent the publication of details about his private life.
A Scottish newspaper has identified the footballer but is unlikely to face prosecution since Scottish law differs from that south of the border. The footballer has also been named on social network site Twitter and his identity has become common knowledge. Despite this, the media has been banned from identifying the man and The Sun newspaper was yesterday (Monday 23 May) unsuccessful in its attempt to get the ban overturned.
Mr Whittingdale said in the House: “This is all in danger of making the law look an ass.”
Mr Grieve said the committee would be a joint effort between both Houses of Parliament. Both the justice and culture secretaries would be invited to set up terms of reference for the committee which would be due to report back in the autumn.
Announcing the formation of the committee, Mr Grieve added that it would still be up to the judiciary to decide on individual cases.
Speaking of the discrepancies between the restrictions on the print media and electronic media such as social network sites, Mr Grieve added: “People who believe that modern methods of communication mean they can act with impunity, may well be in for a rude shock.”
He added: “Generally the Press respect injunctions – it is the bloggers and tweeters who are causing a lot of the problems.”
The comments were welcomed this week by the chair of the CIoJ’s professional practices board, Amanda Brodie.
She said: “The Institute welcomes the formation of the new committee which it is hoped will go some way towards regularising the position with regard to injunctions.
“Frankly, the present situation is rapidly descending into farce. Much of this information is already in the public domain and yet print media are being bound by restrictions which social networking sites are ignoring.
“The law is lagging behind in the fast-paced world of electronic media and urgent action to police the situation is long-overdue.
“The Government needs to find a solution that will balance the rights to privacy with the right to freedom of expression and of a free Press – and it needs to do it soon, for all our sakes.”
Notes to editors:
Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.