Leading article: Children's right to privacy is paramount

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The Independent Online
MEANWHILE, as just one example of The Problem With Boys, it is noticeable that parents these days are often as afraid for their sons as for their daughters, because teenage boys are more likely to be assaulted by others in the street. Indeed, one such incident was reported prominently yesterday.

A 14-year-old boy and his friend were set upon outside their school by five older boys, thought to be from another school. The boy was bruised and scratched, but otherwise all right. So why was this minor incident the front-page lead story in The Express and a front-page "exclusive" in The Sun? Simply because the boy's father is famous. And what did the editors of these papers sign up to just four months ago, in response to public concern about invasions of privacy after Princess Diana's death? A Code of Conduct: solemn, binding and positively the last chance for press self-regulation. "Where material about the private life of a child is published there must be justification for publication other than the fame, notoriety or position of his or her parents or guardian," the Code says. Further, "In cases involving children, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to override the normally paramount interests of the child."

The child's father does not want to file a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission. But why should he have to complain? Where is Lord Wakeham, the PCC's chairman? The time has come for someone else to try to make self-regulation work. Otherwise, Parliament will have to act.

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