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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 19:10 GMT
'Kiss and tell' ban raises privacy fears
British newspapers
Newspapers fear tougher restrictions
By BBC Media Correspondent Torin Douglas

Newspaper organisations have expressed concern about a High Court ruling that could end the publication of so-called "kiss and tell" stories and other exposes.

In the case, a married footballer was granted an injunction against an unnamed newspaper, preventing it publishing details of affairs he had with two women.

The story had been due to be published in April, after the newspaper - which cannot be named - obtained interviews with two women who claimed to have had affairs with the footballer.

Granting an injunction against the paper, Mr Justice Jack ruled that the law of confidentiality could apply to sexual relationships, whether or not there was an express agreement between the parties to keep the matters confidential.

Private lives

He decided there was no public interest in publishing the details.

The Newspaper Society and the Society of Editors said the courts seemed to be developing a law of privacy and the ruling could enable politicians and others to obtain injunctions to stop their private lives being exposed.

It could also affect book publishers and the writing of biographies.

The public relations consultant Max Clifford said it was a threat to freedom of speech, but he thought tabloid editors would fine a way round it.

"Instead of the individual concerned getting a call on Saturday afternoon or evening, to say 'We have been given this information, what have you got to say?' - and then immediately running off to their lawyers - that phone call won't happen," he said.

But Mark Stephens, an experienced media lawyer, said the ruling was just the latest in a series of legal actions that made it more difficult for the media to do their job.

An appeal is due to be heard next year.

See also:

04 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
US u-turn on online privacy laws
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