Letter from the editor: One-nil to the people

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The Independent Online

I’ve rarely known a story that has excited as much public interest - and on which I hold so many contradictory views - as the one which graces our front page today.

Almost everyone I know, and a few I don’t, has at some point recently asked me if I knew the identity of those who have used the law to protect their privacy/keep a story out of the press* (*delete where applicable). I, of course, strictly observed the terms of the various legal notices, and, no matter how much chablis was put my way, I kept my own counsel. I didn’t even take part in the latest party game: injunction charades - married man, two words, first name rhymes with bank, you know the sort of thing. No, I wouldn’t have any part of that; at least that’s the story I’ll be telling Louise, our strict legal eagle.

It is, I find, hard to take this story seriously, because at the heart of it is a battle for the right of a Big Brother contestant to tell the story of how she bedded one of Britain’s best-known footballers. Hardly a freedom of speech issue that it’s worth going to the stake for, I think you’ll agree. Nevertheless, the law has been exposed as outdated, unable to cope with the tools of modern day communication.

There has been, and still is, an element of farce surrounding this case, and others, and if the law is not to be thrown into disrepute, wiser heads than mine must tackle the balance between freedom of speech in the age of Twitter and the internet, and the individual’s right to a private life. There has been, it’s true, an unseemly rush to expose Manchester United’s No 11, and our Press doesn’t always act in good faith (cf phone-hacking), but, on balance, we should always know more rather than less. The fiercely competitive nature, and the freedom, of the British Press ensures that our rulers, our business leaders, our politicians and, yes, our celebrities are held to account in a way they are not in other countries. One-nil to the people, I think.

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