Latest Articles


29.08.2014
Maxim Trudolyubov

The hand that feeds

The first victims of sanctions and counter-sanctions

As Russia becomes more and more isolated, the Russian government will need to provide for all those who support it. Maxim Trudolyubov explains why those who can provide for themselves will be the first victims of western sanctions and Russian countermeasures. [ more ]

28.08.2014
Eurozine News Item

Lost in transition?

22.08.2014
Maria Lipman

Commander of a fortress under siege

22.08.2014
Ljiljana Radonic

Standards of evasion

New Issues


Eurozine Review


06.08.2014
Eurozine Review

What are you doing here?

In "Kultura Liberalna", star economist "Tomás Sedlácek" tells us not to trust economists; "Glänta" asks questions about migration; "Osteuropa" expresses concern over parallels between Ukraine and Bosnia; "Merkur" reveals the true significance of the oligarch's yacht; "openDemocracy" assesses the impact of the longest anti-government protest in Bulgarian history; "Il Mulino" reflects upon Isaiah Berlin's Zionism; in "Blätter" Heribert Prantl argues for a democracy without barriers; "La Revue nouvelle" revisits the effects of the Schlieffen-Moltke plan; "L'Homme" considers the role of women activists in fighting for human rights; "Res Publica Nowa" explores the politics of place, from Pomerania to Istanbul; and "GAM" talks to Edith Ackermann about talent, intuition, creativity.

23.07.2014
Eurozine Review

The world's echo system

09.07.2014
Eurozine Review

Courage of thought vs technocracy

25.06.2014
Eurozine Review

Every camera a surveillance camera

11.06.2014
Eurozine Review

All about the beautiful game



http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2011-05-02-newsitem-en.html
http://mitpress.mit.edu/0262025248
http://www.eurozine.com/about/who-we-are/contact.html
http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2009-12-02-newsitem-en.html

My Eurozine


If you want to be kept up to date, you can subscribe to Eurozine's rss-newsfeed or our Newsletter.

Articles
Share |


A divine right?

In the UK, the use of "superinjunctions" to prevent media from publishing intimate details about the private lives of public figures has been widely condemned by free speech advocates, who see them as a privilege of the wealthy and inimical to the public interest. A recent parliamentary report has, however, endorsed the judgement of the British courts, even recommending that breaches of privacy by online media be "filtered". Leading free speech expert Eric Barendt defends the report against its critics.

Rather predictably, the report of the joint committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons on privacy and injunctions was rubbished in the press as soon as it was published. The headline to a stinging attack on the report by John Kampfner in The Guardian (March 27 2012) screamed: "Tighter privacy laws would only serve the rich and powerful." Kampfner concluded that the peers and MPs on the committee paid lip-service to freedom of expression, implying that privacy laws are largely used by politicians to hide public scandals which ought to be exposed by the media. In particular, he was concerned that one recommendation in the report might compel search engines to "delete – not only from their searches but from the internet itself – any material that is deemed to invade privacy".

Free speech debate


This article was first published in Free Speech Debate, a global, multilingual website based at the University of Oxford, UK, for the discussion of freedom of expression in the age of the Internet and mass migration.

Claus Leggewie, Horst Meier, "Why the EU's 'harmonization machine' should stay away from history"
Teresa Scassa, "Guilt by association"
Jorge L. Contreras, "The downside of open access"
Jeremy Waldron, "The harm of hate speech"
Maryam Omidi, "A day in the life of a climate scientist"
David Erdos, "The tension between data protection and freedom of expression"
Eric Barendt, "A divine right?"
Ivan Hare, "The harm of hate speech legislation"
These criticisms are unfair. For a start the committee did not recommend, as the Guardian headline suggested, "tighter" or more draconian privacy laws. It considered that, broadly, the courts were striking the right balance between freedom of expression (and of the press) on the one hand, and privacy rights on the other. Both these rights are guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, and are now incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998. The courts, and other bodies, such as the former Press Complaints Commission, adjudicating privacy complaints, must determine on the basis of all the relevant facts whether privacy is more important in the circumstances than freedom of expression, or whether the latter trumps the individual's privacy rights. Most privacy actions in the courts are brought by footballers and other celebrities, anxious to stop the publication of a story about their intimate sexual life, rather than by politicians and other public figures who take important social or economic decisions affecting all of us. But even politicians have, as the European Court of Human Rights has ruled, a right to some private life; it is not clear that there is a public interest in knowing that an MP is having, or has had, an affair with his secretary, unless there is some evidence that it is interfering with the ability to represent his or her constituents or affects attendance in the House of Commons.

It is certainly the case that the rich and powerful make greater use than the rest of us of privacy laws. But that is largely because the press and other media publish much more about their private life, particularly their sexual affairs, than they do about the life of ordinary citizens, which is generally of no interest at all to most readers and viewers. Further, only the wealthy can afford to bring actions in the courts, as the committee report itself acknowledges. That is itself no objection to privacy laws as such, any more than their prohibitive cost is an argument against the existence of the Ritz or Dorchester hotels. The solution is to reduce the costs of legal actions, or more realistically to ensure that members of the public – whose private life does sometimes attract the attention of the media – have access to other inexpensive tribunals to protect their privacy. In chapter five of its report, the committee made a number of sensible, albeit very tentative, recommendations for privacy protection by a reformed media regulator, including a proposal for alternative dispute resolution of privacy complaints, but these proposals for some reason were ignored in Kampfner's critique of the report.

The real problem now is how privacy rights can be effectively enforced when it is so easy for them to be ignored by tweeters, bloggers, and – sadly, it must be added – by irresponsible parliamentarians. The traditional mass media can be relied on generally to observe the terms of court injunctions, including those granted to preserve the anonymity of a claimant; they are advised by in-house and other lawyers, while editors, particularly those of the local and regional press, know that the infringement of personal privacy carries significant financial risks, as well as a loss of respect in the community they serve. We can have no such confidence that bloggers and tweeters will respect the law; indeed they may delight in infringing court orders, particularly if they are sceptical of the value of privacy.

The committee therefore made a number of recommendations to ensure that privacy rights are better protected, particularly in the online environment. One of them was to encourage Google and other search engines – and if necessary introduce legislation to compel them – to remove links to infringing websites, after an individual had obtained a clear court order that the material on the site infringed privacy rights. The evidence from Google was that even if it were technically possible to filter access to these websites, it would not be desirable for it in principle to monitor them. The committee was understandably critical of this position, for it showed reluctance, as Max Mosley argued, to help enforce court judgments. Co-operation from Google would not, as Kampfner suggests, remove the material from the infringing website itself, but would filter access to it, a different matter.

Two related fundamental beliefs probably underlie much media criticism of the joint committee's report – which is generally rather cautious and conservative in its recommendations. First, it is too easy for journalists and other commentators to assume that everything they write is protected by the fundamental human (and legal) right to freedom of expression (or speech). It is not, though of course much of it is. It is far from clear that celebrity gossip or speculation, however accurate, about really intimate matters deserves the protection of a free speech clause. Secondly, privacy itself is undervalued or discredited, perhaps because it can easily be claimed in a wide range of contexts – for example, the right to have an abortion is treated in the USA as an aspect of personal privacy. But privacy is a fundamental right, because without it we would have no space, or effective opportunities, to develop our individual personality, or indeed sometimes to engage in conversation. Further, the development of any close friendship or intimacy requires privacy. The evisceration of privacy rights – an unintended consequence of much media argument in this area – would destroy the boundary between private and public life to the cost of all of us.

 



Published 2012-05-04


Original in English
First published in Free Speech Debate, 19.04.2012

Contributed by Free Speech Debate
© Eric Barendt / Free Speech Debate
© Eurozine
 

Eurozine BLOG

On the Eurozine BLOG, editors and Eurozine contributors comment on current affairs and events. What's behind the headlines in the world of European intellectual journals?
Simon Garnett
Britain flouts the European Court of Justice

http://www.eurozine.com/blog/
The UK has passed legislation on data retention that flouts European concerns about privacy. The move demonstrates extraordinary arrogance not only towards the Court of Justice of the European Union but towards the principle of parliamentary deliberation in Britain, writes Simon Garnett. [more]

Focal points     click for more

Ukraine in focus

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/publicsphere.html
Ten years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is in the throes of yet another major struggle. Eurozine provides commentary on events as they unfold and further articles from the archive providing background to the situation in today's Ukraine. [more]

The ends of democracy

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/democracy.html
At a time when the global pull of democracy has never been stronger, the crisis of democracy has become acute. Eurozine has collected articles that make the problems of democracy so tangible that one starts to wonder if it has a future at all, as well as those that return to the very basis of the principle of democracy. [more]

Russia in global dialogue

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/eurocrisis.html
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

The EU: Broken or just broke?

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/eurocrisis.html
Brought on by the global economic recession, the eurocrisis has been exacerbated by serious faults built into the monetary union. Contributors discuss whether the EU is not only broke, but also broken -- and if so, whether Europe's leaders are up to the task of fixing it. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch an online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
George Pagoulatos, Philippe Legrain
In the EU we (mis)trust: On the road to the EU elections

http://www.eurozine.com/timetotalk/in-the-eu-we-mistrust-on-the-road-to-the-eu-elections/
On 10 April, De Balie and the ECF jointly organized a public debate in Amsterdam entitled "In the EU we (mis)trust: On the road to the EU elections". Some of the questions raised: Which challenges does Europe face today? Which strategic choices need to be made? [more]

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

There are currently no positions available.

Editor's choice     click for more

William E Scheuerman
Civil disobedience for an age of total surveillance
The case of Edward Snowden

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2014-04-18-scheuerman-en.html
Earlier civil disobedients hinted at our increasingly global condition. Snowden takes it as a given. But, writes William E. Scheuerman, in lieu of an independent global legal system in which Snowden could defend his legal claims, the Obama administration should treat him with clemency. [more]

Literature     click for more

Olga Tokarczuk
A finger pointing at the moon

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2014-01-16-tokarczuk-en.html
Our language is our literary destiny, writes Olga Tokarczuk. And "minority" languages provide a special kind of sanctuary too, inaccessible to the rest of the world. But, there again, language is at its most powerful when it reaches beyond itself and starts to create an alternative world. [more]

Piotr Kiezun, Jaroslaw Kuisz
Literary perspectives special: Witold Gombrowicz

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-08-16-kuisz-en.html
The recent publication of the private diary of Witold Gombrowicz provides unparalleled insight into the life of one of Poland's great twentieth-century novelists and dramatists. But this is not literature. Instead: here he is, completely naked. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/literaryperspectives.html
Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/europetalkstoeurope.html
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Law and Border. House Search in Fortress Europe
The 26th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Conversano, 3-6 October 2014

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/conversano2014.html
Taking place in southern Italy, not far from Lampedusa, this year's Eurozine conference will address both EU refugee and immigration policies and intellectual partnerships across the Mediterranean. Confirmed speakers include Italian investigative journalist Fabrizio Gatti and Moroccan feminist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Rita El Khayat. [more]

Multimedia     click for more

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/multimedia.html
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]


powered by publick.net