BBC journalist accused of hypocrisy after dropping 'gag order' on affair

 

TOP BBC journalist Andrew Marr has dropped an injunction preventing newspapers reporting that he had an extramarital affair, after satirical magazine Private Eyemade it clear it would continue to fight a court battle.

Marr, who presents a flagship Sunday morning TV programme, won a “super-injunction” in 2008 to prevent any reporting of his affair, and of the existence of a child whom he believed for several years, wrongly as it turned out, was his.

Private Eyewon an appeal against the super-injunction – a legal measure to ensure that even the existence of the injunction cannot be reported – so it was known publicly since then that Marr had won an injunction, but not what it covered.

Magazine editor Ian Hislop was due shortly to seek the overturning of the injunction – a move which led Marr to abandon his efforts, telling the Daily Mailyesterday he was “embarrassed” at having sought court protection in the first place.

Marr’s affair was a well-known fact in political and journalistic circles, leading many in both trades to argue he was not in a position to probe private issues with interviewees.

However, his discomfiture over the super-injunction did not stop him from asking former prime minister Gordon Brown before the last British election if he was taking “prescription pain-killers and pills” to cope with depression, a question that led to private charges from fellow journalists of hypocrisy.

The increased use of super-injunctions by the famous to protect their privacy is raising concerns in the UK about press freedom. A premier league footballer, a well-known actor and a married TV star have all secured such orders in the last fortnight.

“I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists. Am I embarrassed by it? Yes. Am I uneasy about it? Yes. But at the time there was a crisis in my marriage and I believed there was a young child involved,” Marr told the Daily Mail.

However, the Private Eyeeditor was unforgiving: “He’d written a piece specifically about privacy law in which he said judges should not determine privacy law, it should be determined by parliament. Therefore he had just done the exact opposite of what he believed,” said Hislop.

“[His] job was interrogating those in public life, and he went into their foibles, their failings, their lack of judgment, their private lives. This was the man interviewing all the senior people in the government.

“So it was ridiculous for him to be doing that, with an undeclared gagging order still functioning. This isn’t the first injunction Private Eyehas challenged: the president of the Law Society actually tried to stop us reporting that the Law Society had reprimanded him. He said that was confidential, he put a super-injunction on Private Eye,we had to fight that all the way to the appeals court. These stories aren’t always about nothing but people’s sex lives. They are about a right of the public to know what its people in power are doing, and that’s what the principle is.”