i Editor's Letter: Celebrities too deserve privacy


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The Independent Online


At the height of the hacking stories this summer, I asked whether you believed hacking mattered; was it worth i’sprecious column inches?

Your response was unequivocal. It mattered a great deal to i’s readers. Not as much as the economy or immigration, but you told us to keep at it. That said, it was not until the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone became public that the story caught fire. Before that, news of Hugh Grant or Sienna Miller being hacked was not something that would elicit national sympathy. It may still be the case, but it’s eccentric for even ardent opponents of our celebrity culture to feel sympathy for one group but not others, when victim of similar appalling behaviour.

Few comparisons can be made between the Dowlers and Grant, as he was back in 2002. He’d been a big star since the global success of Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994. The Dowlers were regular folk; just victims of crime thrust haplessly before the media’s eye.

And, of course, how could other incidents compare with Bob and Sally Dowler being led to believe their daughter might still be alive after Milly’s voicemails were erased by hackers?

And yet... Surely Grant, Miller and all the other celebrities who were hacked and followed and harassed in the name of tabloid journalism must have the same protection as the Dowlers, the Paynes and all those other “ordinary” people we will hear from over the coming weeks?

In part that is because, I believe celebrities too deserve privacy, and in part to help stop “ordinary” folk being so vulnerable when, for reasons good (lottery winner) or bad (crime), they are thrust into the type of spotlight that Miller and Grant endure everyday.