Celebrities Don't Just Have the Right to Sue 'News of the World', They Have a Duty | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Celebrities Don’t Just Have the Right to Sue ‘News of the World’, They Have a Duty

We need to condemn the press' invasion of privacy to save ethical journalism, Comment Editor Alex Cirant-Taljaard argues

It has been almost six years since News of the World closed its doors, but looking at the state of journalism, you’d think it was ancient history. Is six years really all the time it takes to forget the lessons we learned from the Leveson inquiry? To forget the invasive and slimy tactics employed by the likes of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks? To forget that News International’s own resident Emperor Palpatine, Rupert Murdoch, was accused of lying about his involvement in the hacking of private voicemails?

This is why the news that David Tennant is among a group of celebrities suing News International filled me with so much joy. Anybody who can hold this organisation to account, and hit News International where it hurts, has a civic obligation to do so.

The ruling elite won’t stop Murdoch, because he is one of them

Way back in the depths of time (by which I mean 2007), Clive Goodman, the former Royal Editor for News of the World, was sent to prison for illegally acquiring information about Prince William. At the time, Rupert Murdoch claimed he was a rouge operative, acting of his own volition. This was, of course, likely a move to save his own skin. But the lies couldn’t hold for long. After the revelation that News of the World had been hacking the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, the paper was forced to shut down, and Murdoch and Co. were put on trial.

It would have been a great victory for proper journalism if Rupert Murdoch had been jailed following the Leveson inquiry, along with former News of the World editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. Instead, it was only Coulson who ended up jailed for 18 months. While incredibly embarrassing for both Brooks and Murdoch, both are now back in positions of great power. Even Coulson isn’t fairing too badly, and has recently been hired by the Telegraph as a PR adviser. This means that the takeaway moral of the story is: so long as you’re powerful enough, you can basically do what you like.

They’re just people who want compensation for the illegal breaching of their privacy

Of course, it’s no surprise that they have come away from the scandal relatively unscathed. The politicians and governing bodies designed to keep them in check are at best ineffectual, and at worst complicit in the crimes committed. Even the new Independent Press Standards Office seems unable to properly bring insubordinate newspapers to heel. The ruling elite won’t stop Murdoch, because he is one of them. And they look after their own.

The nine individuals represented by Law Firm Collyer Bristow, including David Tennant and Formula One driver Eddie Irvine, are not heroes for suing News of the World. They’re just people who want compensation for the illegal breaching of their privacy. While a compensation scheme was set up by News International, it was promptly shut down 18 months later, meaning many were left without justice. But even if these celebrities are suing purely for personal reasons, they are still doing better than our politicians and many of our journalists who seem to forget the whole scandal ever even happened.

A free and fair press is so important to our democracy, and we should be fighting much harder to make sure good journalism is being done. And we should be sending a message to Rupert Murdoch and those like him that nobody, no matter their status or power, can get away with such blatant and disgusting invasions of privacy.

2nd Year Social Policy and Political Science student, Olympic pole-vaulting hopeful and massive liar (@alexjtaljaard)


7th April 2017 at 3:44 pm

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