Tuesday 15 December 2009

Tim Crook on Tiger Woods' injunction: 'Has the UK become the land of judicial censorship?'

Tim Crook , court reporting specialist and senior lecturer in Media Law & Ethics at Goldsmiths, University of London, in the latest posting on his new monthly media law blog says:"I am curious to know if media publisher editors in the United Kingdom are prepared to concede that the mother country of common law has become the land of judicial censorship.
"It is certainly the home of privacy injunctions gagging media coverage of the infidelity and alleged moral infractions of home-grown and global celebrity. And the very existence of these court orders and the celebrocrats protected are also censored by ‘superinjunctions.’
"Most of the world’s media has been discussing and reporting the coverage of the global celebrity Tiger Woods’ extra-marital relationships. US media law is determined by the country’s constitutional First Amendment which prioritizes freedom of expression and freedom of the media. As soon as the news emerged that Mr Woods had been at the wheel of a motorcar colliding with a fire hydrant with reports that his wife had applied one of his golf clubs to the car’s windows, his private life became somewhat newsworthy."
Tim adds: "He is a billionaire and public figure par excellence. His wealth is dependent on product endorsements and includes advertising campaigns where his family life would appear to be part of the Tiger Woods’ brand. If Tiger Woods had been British and his home in Virginia Water rather than Miami, Florida, it is likely that the story of his alleged serial infidelity and public and private embarrassment could have been fully suppressed by London High Court injunction."
Tim also claims: "Amongst the political, media, legal and higher educational elites in the UK (spheres of influence and sub-cultures I know only too well) there is no respect and utter contempt for the sex scandal exposĂ© genre of journalism pursued by ‘tabloid’ media publications such as the Sun and News of the World, and I frequently notice an intense negativity in body language and facial countenance whenever I mention the title Daily Mail."
He argues: "Much that I respect her majesty’s judges, it is indeed possible to argue that they have less democratic legitimacy and constitutionality than national newspaper editors."
And that: "The constitutionality of media freedom was won by enlightenment pornography, disgraceful libels and outrageous intrusions on royal, political and social celebrity by disrespectful and pox-ridden demagogues such as John Wilkes. Compared to the rakish benders of the Hellfire Club, I would not be surprised if today’s tabloid editors are more likely to be habituĂ©s of Catholic mass or the Baptist chapel."
Tim concludes: "The public interest in freedom without responsibility will always be more vital and necessary than the private interest of personal autonomy with responsibility."

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