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    Opinion at the Economist: Free speech v private life

    The Economist has an opinion column about freedom of speech and privacy rights:

    The case comes amid a furore over court-ordered anonymity, in which footballers and other celebrities, as well as the former Royal Bank of Scotland boss, Sir Fred Goodwin, have won injunctions preventing media coverage of their private lives. But the headlines belie the complexity of the issue. Some cases involve attempted blackmail, where courts habitually protect the interests of victims, however prominent or naughty. Others involve family-law courts binding parties not to talk to outsiders, even to MPs. […]

    Campaigners see all this as part of a growing body of judge-made privacy law which unfairly constrains free speech. They are particularly upset by so-called “super-injunctions” whose existence cannot be reported. These are increasingly rare—none has been granted this year. And they are temporary, issued to protect an applicant’s privacy pending a full hearing.

    Some reform is clearly needed, and a committee of legal brains convened by a top judge will report shortly. But cynics think that the media is trying to distract attention from its own sins, such as “phone-hacking”—breaking into the voicemail of celebrities—which has led to criminal prosecutions. […]

    Politicians have little love for the media. But they also dislike the idea of overmighty judges. David Cameron, the prime minister, says he feels “uneasy” about judge-made privacy law imported from Europe. Yet the common-law principle of “breach of confidence” is ancient, and Parliament debated the act that enshrines in British law the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, including both “respect for private and family life” and free speech.

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