Privacy, the Media and Self-Regulation; COMMENT

Daily Mail (London), September 18, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Privacy, the Media and Self-Regulation; COMMENT


IN THE immediate aftermath of tragedy, when the world was united in grief for Diana, Princess of Wales, this newspaper urged the need for a tough new code of media conduct, to be drawn up by the Press Complaints Commission, over the use of paparazzi photographs. And we added these words: 'Nor has The Mail always been innocent in this regard.' Last week our proprietor, Lord Rothermere, took the initiative in banning pictures taken by paparazzi.

And today we unreservedly welcome the pledge by newspaper editors to strengthen the media code of practice.

It is fashionable in some quarters to dismiss self-regulation as a sham.

But in fact an enormous amount has been achieved by the PCC. Quietly, without fuss, newspapers are becoming more responsible.

Yes, there remains a long way to go. The media have got to reassess what constitutes privacy and how it should be balanced against matters of genuine public interest. The excesses of harassment must be curbed. And children, royal or not, must be protected.

But self-regulation under a rigorous new code, observed in the spirit as well as to the letter, offers a better way forward than any privacy law.

And such a code must apply absolutely to all newspapers. Not just to the more raucous tabloids, but to those broadsheets which so often like to claim a monopoly on virtue. It is they, after all, who repeated the hurtful allegations of royal rows over Diana's funeral, which have since been so forcibly denied by the Queen.

Nor can others escape their responsibilities. It was Channel 4 News which first broadcast those allegations. It was this week's Panorama programme which included dozens of photographs of Diana, taken by paparazzi.

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