Editors face privacy committee

The UK newspaper, magazine and news wire editors told the committee the issue of super injunctions has calmed (stills taken from Parliament Live TV)

The issue of privacy and injunctions within the newspaper industry appears to have reached "a period of calm", Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger told the joint committee on privacy and injunctions today.

Rusbridger was joined by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, Sunday Times editor John Witherow and Press Association editor Jonathan Grun, who all seemed to agree that following a "rush of super injunctions", as one MP put it, the issue has calmed, or as Hislop told the committee, has seen "an outbreak of sanity".

Hislop added this was "partly to do with the massive hoo-ha kicked up by various sections of the media and partly to do with the feeling there has been some correction in the way the law is being applied".

Sunday Times editor John Witherow told the committee agreed there had been "an extraordinary spate of injunctions this year".

"There was a sense they were being scattered around like confetti. But that has really moderated in the last few months. Whether there have been fewer cases I don't know but it certainly seems to have eased. At the moment the balance is not too bad."

Grun added that recent high profile privacy cases, coupled with the phone-hacking scandal has acted as "a distorting lens when applied to the activities of the British media as a whole".

"It does misrepresent the day-to-day activities of hundreds of newsrooms across the country. In newsrooms across the country journalists take decisions beneath the radar but those decisions tend to guard the privacy of what you would describe as ordinary people."

Hislop told the committee he believed there were around 10 stories the press could currently not report on, due to existing active injunctions.

All four editors agreed that the defence of public interest is usually clear in their editorial decisions. Rusbridger added that news outlets need to have "some kind of codification" to ensure this is understood.

"You have to have a culture where people from top to bottom understand roughly where you draw the line."

He also referred to the Guardian's recent move to update its editorial code
and bring in enhanced guidelines on privacy based on five principles drawn up by Sir David Omand, the former head of security and intelligence at the Cabinet Office.

"I hope anyone on the Guardian knows those are the questions they should be asking and should consult someone in authority."

He added that while he does not feel inhibited by the current situation in relation to privacy and injunctions, he has done in relation to the issue of confidence, which he described as an "ever present threat".

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