Letter: A privacy law will not help

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The Independent Online
Sir: By its sheer scale, the public outpouring of grief at the tragic death of Princess Diana has exceeded that anticipated by politicians, media and the Royal Family. By the same token, it undermines the clamour of those wishing to seize on the circumstances of the Princess's death and the nation's sense of loss as the route to a privacy law.

It is profoundly patronising as well as wrongheaded of some in the Establishment to dismiss the public at large as a lumpen mass force-fed their media diet and incapable of making personal judgements. Indeed, the People's Princess, who had her own love-hate relationship with the popular media, was loved as much for her human vulnerabilities and mood swings as she was for her inspirational efforts in aid of the sick and helpless and her unique glamour.

Intractable problems attach themselves to drafting privacy laws capable of simultaneously protecting prominent or ordinary citizens and investigative journalism (whether by broadsheet, tabloid or television). There could no more ill-fitting reaction to the tragedy of the People's Princess than a flawed law that endangers the people's right to know.

It is worth remembering here that the awful events which killed the Princess also cost the life of Dodi Fayed, the companion who had latterly brought so much deserved happiness into her life and the son of the man who performed a high-profile role in exposing to the electorate the corruption and venality of certain politicians. Privacy laws would almost certainly have prevented that service.

It may yet be that a new understanding will now evolve naturally between the media and its public. Only a suicidal editor or proprietor would lightly push beyond the commercial taste barrier a post-Diana public would accept. That would make for a far more fitting memorial to the People's Princess than summoning up those ever-eager legislators.

PAUL CONNEW

London, NW1

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