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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Should there be tougher privacy laws?
The Blackburn Rovers player had won an injunction last year to stop the Sunday People naming him in a story alleging he had had extra-marital affairs.
The married footballer argued the laws of confidentiality protected details of relationships outside marriage.
But the press argued a ruling in Mr Flitcroft's favour could result in overly harsh privacy regulations being developed.
Earlier this week, The Mirror newspaper was ordered to pay £3,500 damages to Naomi Campbell for publishing pictures of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.
High Court judge Mr Justice Morland ruled that the supermodel's confidentiality had been breached, a judgement described as a complete joke by the paper's editor Piers Morgan.
Are kiss and tell stories in the public interest? Do you think people in the public eye are entitled to protect matters in their private lives? Or should the freedom of the press be a priority? Would a privacy law endanger the future of investigative journalism?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I think the issue here is how the court case was paid for by the players fund. His affair is nothing to do with anyone but his family however, players at all levels pay into this fund and should only be used for football related actions. His affair isn't the issue but the use of players' funds to cover up his affairs is.
Would tabloid hacks be prepared to name and shame colleagues or bosses known to be cheating on their partners? If not, why not?
Henry Case, UK
The question of media privacy laws should be decided by public referendum now! The gutter press can then quietly close down.
I think in the case of Naomi Campbell, if someone says they don't take drugs and then is spotted coming out of a drug clinic then that's fair game. As for the rest of it, we wouldn't need privacy laws if people stopped buying papers that publish the trash end of the news. I can understand why papers do it. In a 24 hour TV/internet news world they can't hope to compete with main steam news so have to aim for finding and uncovered celebrity gossip. I don't buy tabloids and if everyone else followed suit then they'd have to stop and get back to real journalism. Anyway who thinks that Naomi Campbell should be up in court for purgery? Perhaps "The Sun" should start a campaign. If prison is good enough for Tory "liars" then it should be good enough for models as well.
This is a tough one. The right to know vs. the right to privacy. It's not a trivial matter. Knowing is one of only two real safeguards against evil and corruption. The problem is, privacy is the other.
I've just got one thing to say - Garry Flitcroft? Who the hell is he?
What right do we have to expect footballers, actors etc. to become "role models" once they become famous? For moral guidance, look to religious leaders and philosophers, not footballers!
The cynics among us may choose to pursue this equation between behaviour and fame - e.g. "Famous premier league player" must behave perfectly whereas "League Division 2 player" must only behave well and "Non League player" can do what he wants! What happens when you get promotion - do you have to spend the summer introducing more moral rigour into your life? What if your club gets demoted - can you suddenly start to behave a bit more laddishly?
What Mr Flitcroft does off the pitch, as long as it is not illegal, is nothing to do with anyone else who isn't directly involved (i.e. Mrs Flitcroft, his mistress, any kids).
It's rather tragic that people want to read about this sort of thing...
This argument would be academic if nobody bought this rubbish in the first place. The only gossip I read is the "Street of Shame" column in Private Eye. That speaks volumes about the ethics and moral standards of newspaper reporters and their editors.
An individual's private life is just that - 'Private'. It is no one else's business and it is not the right of the public to know. When you get right down to it, except for those who have no life and must rely on a daily ration of scandal, who really cares? The press is very quick to yell 'Freedom of the Press' but never seems to recall the responsibility that goes with that so-called freedom. Whatever happened to responsible reporting?
The press tried to defend their position by saying if there was a privacy law they would have not been able to publish the Clinton affair to which I say rubbish.
How can a footballer (not even a well known one) be compared to a President of the US?
People have a right to protect their privacy which should also not allow the press to take a persons photograph without their consent.
The press are against any privacy law because anything with a sexual content will always sell a paper. If they want to carry on with this sort of reporting why not publish details of affairs which Im sure press reporters and even perhaps editors have had in the past.
It is a difficult question and not without hypocrisy. Those in the public eye and with popular followings are role models, like it or not. Role models must be open to scrutiny in order to keep them, as a group, respectable. It can be very tough on individuals and their innocent friends and relatives.
Tony Blair is very clearly a role model and a moral guide. Look at the damage done because he has succeeded in keeping secret his arrangements for the immunisation of Leo. In my view what the Blairs have done in opting for a single? vacine is a very real public interest. Gary Flitcroft never set himself up to tell us what to do in our own personal lives, he simply is a victim of his own success. Tony Blair on the other hand has the power to avoid being outed in public interest matters. Where are the courageous press when the nation needs them?
Sophie Hawksworth, UK
Does anybody really care if an overpaid footballer is having an affair? I certainly don't. I live in the real world - there are more important things to worry about!
Why does everyone keep saying this guy is a role model - he is no such thing he's a football player that is what he gets paid for - kicking a ball not installing morals in young kids. Privacy laws yes, they need to be stronger. It bothers me the way they write the news as if these tabloids are the moral plinths of Britain. We all know that news men are types with one thing in mind "next scoop please"
It does seem ironic that Gary Flitcroft's attempts to keep this out of the papers has cost him quarter of a million pounds and a year of stress, and turned a non-story into a big issue. If he'd just let the story be published, it would have been forgotten in a few days.
If it wasn't for such sordid stories, I bet that none of you would even bother buying or reading the newspapers.
Yes I read the tabloids, yes I read the gossip columns. I have no sympathy for any celebrity who moans about having their privacy invaded. You reap what you sow.
I have yet to see an expose of any editor or reporter of any newspaper; so who is censoring such information, self-interest perhaps.
In modern times, the freedom of press has been the number one reason behind scandals, wars, rebellions, uprisings. The media should realize that it's only as cruel as a person of a certain era, and this era is of deception, killing and own-hand justice. Grow up and learn to leave some things alone!
Try living with the USA press - a more dastardly, unprincipled bunch it would be hard to find. Nothing is sacrosanct to them and this, I fear, is where the UK tabloid's got their ideas. They used to have some sense of responsibility, but that's no longer the case. This footballer was obviously not behaving correctly, but in shaming him and his lovers, the press also ensured embarrassment for his wife and family - who are not public figures, nor did they deserve this unwarranted intrusion in their lives. If the media won't exercise restraint then privacy laws are going to have to be the next step.
As one commentator on this page said, you think the UK press is the worst - read the American press - in comparison the UK press is good. However, what has a personality's sex life got to do with his profession? Try drinking in any "Printers Ink" and listen to the journalists regaling each other with memories of their own lascivious behaviour. "Let him without sin throw the first stone".
The nature of this man's job is such that he is looked at by millions of people. If he can't conduct himself in a more professional manner, tough beans. He can always quit his job and avoid the public eye if he really doesn't like the attention he is getting now. Personally, I could care less. I find it pathetic that so many people have so little excitement in their own lives that they need to pry into such a measly, petty affair to feel that they (the hopelessly bored reader) are a part of something, anything that resembles the fame and glory that they obviously can't achieve for themselves: in other words, get a life people.
This country has the worst press I have ever seen in my life. I mean who cares!
Those who are without sin cast the first stone! This news has made no difference to my life but the death Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth - Queen Mother has.
Jessica Slade, Mid Wales UK
Personally if I was the wife of a footballer or of any man in the public eye, who had been playing elsewhere I'd want him shamed in every paper in the land. But that's just it, its my opinion, what about the opinion of this particular footballers wife? Maybe she wanted it kept quiet for family reasons, because surely she knew about all this?! I think in cases like this perhaps the partners view should be considered more than the person in the limelight!
Privacy laws should be harder. Who cares about someone else's private life? If that is all people got to do, then maybe they should get a life.
In Naomi Campbell's case you have to agree that tougher privacy laws are needed, but Garry Flitcroft is a hero & role model to many young people. What type of message is he sending out?.
There's a major conflict in the Middle East and serious talk of the US bombing Iraq. This is all far more important news than some footballer who is cheating on his wife. It's between him and his wife, and the newspapers have got no right to print articles like this. It's not in the public interest and the newspapers should be filled with far more important stories than this one. Leave him alone!
"If you don't want to do the time, don't do the crime" What crime? It's an entirely private matter. I've never heard of the man, I feel sorry for his wife and I think they've got quite enough trouble in their lives without Piers Morgan trying to justify his intrusion as being 'in the public interest'.
There should not have to be privacy laws - the Press should be able to control themselves. However they don't, so I urge everyone to stop buying Morgan's paper until he loses his job because of poor circulation figures.
Kiss and tell stories are irrelevant rubbish in a world where there are so many real concerns e.g. Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel, poverty, disease and so on. If that footballer had any sense he would spend a bit more time with his kids or put some extra effort into raising cash for charity rather than chase women when he has already got a wife and a couple of innocent little children
Mike West, USA
Surely Mrs Flitcroft has a right to know? If Gary Flitcroft wants his private life kept secret then maybe he shouldn't be having affairs out of marriage with strippers.
Well at last we know the name of the mysterious footballer, so what! Am I the only one in the country who doesn't really care who it is? I do care however, that the papers are going to make a lot of money out of someone's unhappiness, and I don't mean Mr Flitcroff, but his wife and family. Has no one considered how she feels? It must have been bad enough finding out about her husbands infidelities, without them being plastered all over the papers. Sadly it seems, yet again, that the media have got their way, regardless of how unimportant the story is, to the rest of us, and who it hurts, as long as they sell more papers that's the main thing! But even sadder is that they will be happy with their handy work. Sad.
One of the problems is that these tabloid newspapers can get it so monumentally wrong in many cases yet carry on with the story regardless. By the time it has been proven wrong it has already become yesterday's news and the mage is done. Nobody is interested anymore and any retraction goes often unnoticed.
In the meantime peoples lives have been ruined. I'm not talking about celebrities. They can nearly always continue with their wealthy isolated lives. It is the small man/woman who can end up in mental and financial ruin because of the idiotic childish crusade of a few money grabbing "journalists". Integrity? Such a word is not in a journalists dictionary (other than in terms of incestuously protecting their own).
Max Clifford is the saddest example of them all because he thinks he is actually providing a valuable service. I just don't believe anything they ever say anymore.
I am disappointed by this fascination the British public seems to have for this sort of tabloid dross. Experiments show that if you continually supply a monkey with cocaine, the monkey will continue to use it to the exclusion of everything else. Tabloid editors claim that they give the public what they want.
In order to improve themselves, people need a little help, not hindrance, from the ones who pull the strings.
Who is going to reveal details of the sex lives, drug taking, criminal activities of newspaper journalists and editors? Oh sorry, I forgot. These people are all such upstanding examples of moral rectitude that they're perfectly entitled to expose the private lives of others.
Before we all rush to criticize the media, let's not forget that they only publish that sort of thing because we, the Public, want to read it.
Simon A from the press. It may be true but it's someone's private life and we don't want to know about it. Find some real news. If a 42-year-old accountant wants to swing with other couples in the privacy of his own home, why does your profession insist on exposing them as well? Would you, Simon, like a newspaper to reveal details of your sex lige and private affairs? After all you must be pretty famous in local circles as your name must appear on the stories you write?
And as for the person saying they know what they are getting themselves into when they sign the dotted line, I see you have afforded yourself a nice anonymous label. Why don't you show us how much you believe your own words and let us know your name?
Simon A, London, UK
He lives a public life. He asked for it by becoming a major footballer. At any other time, he would relish publicity. He can't have it both ways: He is either famous or not famous. If he wants the press to celebrate his football successes, he has no right to deny them access to his private failures.
Let us not forget that he has a wife and two young children. It is really them that have been the most affected by all of this. The footballer (whatever his name is) obviously had no respect for them and their privacy but this does not mean we all have to sink to the same level.
Privacy is a matter of good taste. The news media in general should realize the difference between sensationalism and real news. Someone leaving a drug rehab is their business. I would say that a person who tries to hurt the person who left the drug rehab was a sorry low down dog. And the news media wonders why we as a general public distrust the media.
Christian Martin, UK
There is a huge gulf between "in the public interest" and "arouses the public interest". I feel that the latter is the driver behind most "investigative" journalism because it sells newspapers. It certainly doesn't help the public at large, and is therefore not in their interest. The only thing worse than printing such stories is the people who enjoy reading them!
Overinflated incomes and egos does not entitle anyone to behave badly and then use money & power to cover it up.
Jim Sinclair, UK
For good or for bad, while a market exists and these stories sell newspapers they will continue.
I'm not altogether in favour of controlling the media. However, I sometimes wish their were tougher privacy laws. I don't consider the alleged drug habits of the likes of Barrymore and Campbell in anyway interesting or important to society as a whole. Perhaps if restrictions were placed on the media about reporting on peoples private lives, the tittle-tattle culture may eventually die out and we would all be forced to take an interest in weightier matters.
Roman audiences were amused by seeing men eaten by lions. We haven't reached that point yet, but we're getting there. The media now tempt us every day into the equivalent of reading the private diaries and letters of our neighbours. Media exposures of people's private lives provide entertainment for mildly sadistic voyeurs, as do programs like Big Brother. As we gloat on the shaming of people no worse than ourselves and on the wreckage of their lives, we show a lack of respect not only for our victims but for ourselves. This culture of prurience is doubly disgusting when laced with pompous moralizing.
The press should be limited to printing news only. Since any individual is greater than the press, privacy of the individual must be respected - always. The press must not be allowed to invade our lives however strongly and cleverly they argue. Freedom of press is great but freedom of the individual is greater.
Di Stewart, USA
The story involving Gary Flitcroft is about titillation and selling papers. Let's face it, a lot of the public will not be aware of who Gary Flitcroft is. He has not been the first and will not be the last. It involves him, his wife and his wider family, and the other parties to the alleged relationships. The papers should not be publishing this as it is just about boosting circulation figures and nothing else. It is not a story that is exactly "in the public interest" to know, is it? Leave the lad alone to salvage his marriage.
"If you don't want people to know something about you, then don't do it!"
Life would be boring.
Merx England - Damn good idea! If all the rich and famous people were to gang together and launch a newspaper that intruded on the lives of all the members of Fleet Street, followed up with some long distance photos of the photographers and their partners on the beach - I'm sure the press will start bleating on about their invasion of privacy!
I bet it isn't in the public interest to publish details of the affairs, addictions, misbehaviour, etc. of any newspaper editors or reporters.
Perhaps we should publish whatever we can find out about them, and who cares if it ruins lives and families if it sells a few more papers.
For me, privacy is a basic human right and the press violates this daily in Britain. Sadly the media has a vested interest in not representing the majority view of the people, but instead they hide behind a transparent facade of justifying their invasion of people's privacy in the "interests of the public". That's hypocritical nonsense. We all know that they are doing this in the interests of their shareholders and nobody else.
Here in Holland privacy is protected to a greater extent than in Britain. Even people involved in traffic accidents are not allowed to be named in the press. If you were to suggest that Holland is a less free society than Britain because of this you would be laughed out of town.
Footballers & movie stars alike make their living the public life. They have chosen this route and should be aware of being closely watched or perhaps trapped.
If you decide to take on a career in the spotlight then you should be prepared to have your life exposed to the public. Fame takes your rights for privacy away.
Graeme Phillips, UK
There should be privacy laws. There are libel and slander laws already. Certain things should not be exposed in the public media. If privately someone knows something that is a lot different from publicly exposing someone¿s private business.
If you don't want people to know something about you, then don't do it!!
You have to admire the newspaper editors who stand in front of the TV cameras and with a straight face say: "We printed the story in the interest of the public." There is only one interest they are interested in and that's self. Piers Morgan is a prime example, that guy has the brass nerve of a matador when it comes to justification of his paper's stories.
John Collins, UK
I've always had a problem with this issue. I can't understand how you can justify putting information relating to someone's private life in a newspaper. The journalists who write these things don't care how much hurt they cause as long as they end up with their "big" story.
Yes, there should be privacy laws. These stories are not life threatening or vastly important to public welfare. The same goes for the Naomi Campbell case, the Mirror story was vastly intrusive. Attending the drug/drink session should have been private, for her and all others leaving.
Freedom of privacy should be the priority here, not freedom of the press. Those that want sensationalism in their lives should stick to their Coronation Street and their EastEnders. Naomi Campbell should have been awarded £3.5m not £3,500.
If our privacy is to be violated to such a degree it's only a matter of time before we become, in concept, America's Easternmost state.
Andy, London, UK
There's a very simple way to stop this dross making its way into the news. Next time a newspaper prints something like this, don't buy it, and don't buy it for a few months afterwards. The paper, and its advertisers, will soon get the point. Trouble is, most people seem more interested in footballers' sex lives than in real world events.
As far as I'm concerned, if you don't want to do the time, don't do the crime. Yes, his private life is his private life but we all know what the British Press is like, once you're in a position of celebrity, all bets are off. It might not be fair, but life isn't fair, deal with it. If you don't like it, become a postman.
Linda makes the key point here. Surely the front page of any newspaper at the moment
should be focused on the crisis in the Middle East or our education problems.
Perhaps that's the link. Poor education and moaning teachers with no will to do a proper days work
and educate our youth, clearly seems to breed a society with no comprehension of relative
importance of worldly affairs. A sad situation indeed.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who read the headline and then said "Garry who?" For heavens' sake, who cares? This footballer's alleged extra-marital activities are surely only of interest or relevance to the man himself and the women involved.
How about a debate on 'what is news?'
For me, it is NOT endless speculation about the private lives of so-called celebrities!
Another victory for the curtain twitchers. Leave the man in peace to sort out his problems with his family. I mean who really cares whether he had an affair or not? I certainly don't. It's between him, his wife and his mistress. Anyone who IS interested must lead a VERY shallow life.
We need to adopt tight laws on privacy as is done in France NOW. There even the President can have a mistress without the press poking their noses where they don't belong.
The footballer should have his actions on the field reports, plus anything criminal. But that's it !!!
Last month, I found it appalling the way that a former eighties pop musician had details of his mental health problems and subsequent sectioning broadcast all over the news. The press is simply continuing to feed prejudice for anyone trying to come to terms with their own health problems.
Garry Flitcroft? Do you mean to tell me all this has been about the privacy of an absolute nobody? What a waste of time. If Garry had any sense (oh, yes - he's a footballer isn't he) he'd have just told them to publish and be damned. People would have soon forgotten even if they'd paid the story any attention in the first place because let's face it, he's not exactly Alan Shearer or Michael Owen is he.
Roland Burton, London, UK
Philip Meaden: what did some actor, politician, sport or pop star ever do to you?
What about people who survive say, a physical crime or a disaster and get hassled by the press for their story? On the justification of not dying? Because every case will be different, yes there needs to be some privacy law in the first place- and yep I've no idea who this footballer is either and really don't care. If you do care, get a life.
I don't know anything about the person in question, but I gather he is not a politician etc who has made speeches on the sanctity of marriage. Therefore, he is not a hypocrite, and it is none of our business what he gets up to in his own private life. The papers should stick to reporting important news, not idle pub gossip and only chase those who are proven to have made lied in public or conducted illegal activity.
Actors, politicians, sports stars and the press are all hypocrites and deserve one another.
Kiss and tell stories are not really in the public interest but the press should have the right to print a story on anyone in the public eye as they are often seen as role models. In this case I think Garry Flitcroft has made things a lot worse by trying to protect himself. If you can't do the time then don't do the crime!!
While I don't think we needed to know about the personal life of this particular figure I also don't think we need legislators to tell us that.
Let's not forget that there is also a responsibility here for the audience. If we value our freedom to express and to know we should not squander it on meaningless sordid title tattle. Otherwise the powerful will get their excuse to restrict the rest of us.
In cases like this printing these sorts of details by some parts of the media can prevent the chance of couples getting through their personal problems themselves. Issues that are entirely independent of a person's professional life are private and should remain so.
In cases where a celebrity endorses a product then if their private behaviour contradicts this endorsement then that should be printed, but it should not go further than that.
The public interest argument seems to stop short with newspaper editors. How would newspaper editors like their public affairs printed? Their importance in the fourth estate is substantially more than that of a footballer and yet their image appears squeaky clean.
What would happen if things were on the other foot and Gary Flitcroft, or anyone else who has been subject to "national interest" media stories, hired private investigators to dig out the dirt on the private lives of Tabloid reporters, editors and their families and then publish it on the web? As the tabloids declare themselves as self-appointed guardians of public decency in these matters, Flitcroft could claim "national interest" if they, or any members of their families, fell foul of that mark - well they are in the media after all.
Perhaps one day one rich celebrity will fight back, and if only 10% of the rumours about Fleet Street and its people are true then its going to be a damn good read!
Barry B, UK
There should be a certain level of respect in the media in coverage of the lives of famous people. This line shouldn't be drawn by the government, it should be drawn by the press themselves. What the press tells us is as important as what happens in the world, they have as big an influence on us as anything or anyone.
The courts' decision is disappointing. The disclosure relates neither to his suitability for his job nor any public pronouncements he's made. Shame on our judiciary.
30 Mar 02 | UK
'Kiss and tell' footballer named
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