Journal of Media Law 3 (2):169-177 (2011)

What, if anything, justifies incursions into the private lives of public figures? In Campbell v MGN Ltd, the House of Lords established that a public figure could have no reasonable expectation of privacy if they made false statements to the public about their private life. In such circumstances, in order to ‘put the record straight’, the press may legitimately intrude without the public figure’s consent into that area of their private life about which they misled the public. What would otherwise constitute an illegitimate intrusion into the public figure’s private life is legally permissible if the purpose of the intrusion is to expose to the public a falsity that the public figure had propagated about their private life. In this paper, I argue that there are strong moral and policy reasons against this ‘putting the record straight’ principle (‘PRS’). Principally, PRS is at odds with a central purpose of the right to privacy. Under PRS, public figures who engage in hypocrisy lose legal protection for their private life with respect to that information about which their public pronouncements misled the public. If, as I will argue, hypocrisy is an important (perhaps essential) expression of one’s right to privacy and tool for protecting one’s private life then, under PRS, public figures could lose protection for their right to privacy merely by its exercise.
Keywords Privacy  Public Office  Right to Privacy  Media Ethics  Hypocrisy  Lying  Public Figure  Celebrities  Transparency
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