Former FIA president Max Mosley will tell the European court of human rights today that newspapers should be forced to contact people who are about to be on the receiving end of stories regarded as private.
Mosley successfully sued the News of the World for privacy violations after the paper revealed his extra-marital affairs with prostitutes, receiving £80,000 in damages, but he wants to change the law changed so that he would have had the opportunity to stop the publication in the first place.
He did not know the story had broken until he had seen the front page on the morning of 30 March, 2008.
Writing in the Guardian, Mosley said: “Tabloid revelations can cause great pain, even suicide. The law is ineffective. It cannot prevent even the most outrageously illegal invasions of privacy. They can ruin lives with impunity. The only answer is to compel a newspaper to inform you if it intends to publish your private information.”
A number of media organisations argue that changing the law would violate the media’s right to freedom of expression. It would undoubtedly lead to more injunctions and delay publications.
“[Mosley] is a wealthy international public figure with a penchant for satisfying sexual desires by beating women, and being beaten by them,” said Geoffrey Robertson QC, representing media organisations who have intervened in the case. “He pays prostitutes to engage with him in mildly sadomasochistic orgies, and campaigns for a law that will enable the truth about such ‘private’ conduct to remain secret. The vast scope of the new law which is contended for … is so vague as to be unworkable.”
A parliamentary report concluded last year that the law should only develop through the courts. A decision from the European court of human rights is not expected for some months.
Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford blogs that Mosley’s proposals “would end British journalism’s proud tradition of ‘publish and be damned’ and result in a system of judicial censorship [on the media]”.