Photographs of duchess prompt Shatter to review Privacy Bill
LEGISLATION:MINISTER FOR Justice Alan Shatter has said he intends to revisit the provisions of the 2006 Privacy Bill to prevent “flagrant violation” of the right to privacy by the press.
Mr Shatter was speaking yesterday in the context of the publication by the Irish Daily Star newspaper of topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Some sections of the print media attached “no value of any nature” to the right to privacy, despite it being a right recognised by the Constitution and by the European Convention on Human Rights, he said.
His comments were in contrast to those of the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, who yesterday said he found it hard to “get worked up” about the issue.
Certain publications were ignoring the reasonable principles set down by the Press Council, Mr Shatter said.
“It is clear that some sections of the print media are either unable or unwilling in their reportage to distinguish between ‘prurient interest’ and ‘the public interest’.”
These publications clearly believed public figures had no right to privacy and were “fair game” in the pursuit of profits, he said.
“It is perceived financial gain, as opposed to any principled freedom of expression, that for some is the dominant value. The publication by the Irish Daily Star in Ireland of topless photographs of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, is a clear illustration of this.”
Mr Shatter said he intended to review the Privacy Bill to see what changes should be made ahead of its enactment.
“What is needed is balanced legislation that does nothing to inhibit proper investigative journalism . . . but which also prevents the abuse of an individual’s human rights and flagrant violation of an individual’s right to privacy.”
Mr Shatter’s stance diverged from Mr Rabbitte’s, who yesterday said he didn’t know what “all the excitement is about”.
While the publication of the pictures was not in “especially good taste”, his concern was for the jobs at stake at the Irish Daily Star.
He described as hypocritical and totally disproportionate threats by its UK-based joint owner to close the newspaper.
On Saturday, Richard Desmond, chairman of Northern & Shell, said he would take “immediate steps” to close down the joint venture following the decision of the Irish tabloid to publish the photographs.
“I don’t think it was especially good taste by the Irish Star, but I think there’s a great dollop of hypocrisy on the part of the part-owner of the Irish Star,” said Mr Rabbitte.
The threat to close the paper was a “totally disproportionate” response, he said, particularly given that there were jobs at stake.
“The paper I think made a slip, given that the woman will some day perhaps be queen of England, but it shouldn’t threaten the jobs of the people employed there or the existence of the paper.”
Press ombudsman John Horgan yesterday said that no complaints by, or on behalf of, the duchess had been made to him in relation to the publication of the photographs in the Irish Daily Star.
Mr Horgan said he had received a number of queries about the publication of the pictures.
However, only the subject of an alleged wrong, or someone nominated by them, can make a complaint to his office.