Admission sparks controversy

BBC presenter comes clean about "gagging order"

GMT 18:57 2011 Wednesday ,27 April

Arab Today, arab today BBC presenter  comes clean about "gagging order"

Andrew Marr
LONDON - Arabstoday

Andrew Marr BBC presenter Andrew Marr has revealed he took out a super-injunction to protect his family's privacy - but says he will not pursue it any further.

Mr Marr told the Daily Mail he was "embarrassed" about the gagging order he took out in 2008 to suppress reports of an affair with a fellow journalist. "I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists," he said.
Private Eye editor, Ian Hislop, said Mr Marr, as a journalist himself, had been a "touch hypocritical". Mr Marr's comments follow a number of recent injunctions which have banned the identification of celebrities.
Mr Hislop, who has twice challenged Mr Marr's super-injunction, said: "As a leading BBC interviewer who is asking politicians about failures in judgment, failures in their private lives, inconsistencies, it was pretty rank of him to have an injunction while working as an active journalist. "He knows that and I'm very pleased he's come forward and said 'I can no longer do this'."

In his interview in the Mail, Mr Marr said injunctions seemed to be "running out of control" and he confirmed he had taken one himself to prevent the publication of details about the affair, which happened eight years ago while he was BBC political editor. At the time he believed he had fathered a child with the woman, but later found out through a DNA test this was not the case. He said: "Am I embarrassed by it? Yes. Am I uneasy about it? Yes." But he added: "I also had my own family to think about, and I believed this story was nobody else's business."

Mr Marr - who hosts a Sunday politics show on BBC One - went on to say he knew injunctions were "controversial, and the situation seems to be running out of control". "There is a case for privacy in a limited number of difficult situations, but then you have to move on. They shouldn't be forever and a proper sense of proportion is required", Marr said.

Outgoing Chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has said he was unaware that Mr Marr had taken out the super-injunction. "This has clearly been a challenge for him and I think that is why he has spoken out about it," he said.
Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron said he felt "uneasy" about judges granting injunctions to protect the privacy of powerful individuals. He warned judges were using human rights legislation "to deliver a sort of privacy law" and argued that Parliament, not judges, should decide on the balance between press freedom and privacy.
The Guardian's investigations editor, David Leigh, who was served with a super-injunction last year while investigating oil trading firm Trafigura, told the BBC they were a "menace". He added: "Nobody wants children to go crying home from school just so the tabloids can make a few pounds by revealing people's sex lives. "But the problem that Andrew Marr's revelation has highlighted is that super-injunctions don't just involve the tabloids... they spread like a disease and they cause serious problems for serious papers."
But media lawyer Charlotte Harris, who has represented several celebrities, said: "This case gives us an incredible insight and it might take us further in the debate as to where we draw the line."
BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas said Mr Marr's decision was unlikely to influence others. "He's a special case. Because he is a journalist he felt particularly embarrassed. Others are not in the position where they think the freedom of the press is more important than privacy," he said.There are thought to be about  30 super-injunctions currently in place, but by their very nature this number is not verifiable.

Andrew Marr's decision to end the farce of his own super-injunction was welcomed by MPs and critics yesterday who said he had been 'hypocritical' to hide behind a cloak of secrecy while quizzing public figures.
MPs called yesterday for a debate in Parliament, while one lawyer said the Marr revelations could spell the end of the so-called 'super-injunctions. Nearly 30 celebrities currently have injunctions.

Yesterday the unmarried woman, whose daughter is now aged seven, made it clear that she did not wish to talk about the case. The Marr secret was common knowledge at Westminster and within the BBC.

Mr Hislop told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: 'In a sense, he led the pack because he was the most respectable of the people putting super-injunctions in. But the principle remains wrong, which he knows." 'Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who is compiling a report on super-injunctions, said Mr Marr’s decision would put pressure on other well-known people with sordid secrets to unmask themselves too. He said: 'It does put pressure on others to do the same. Although nobody is committed to naming anyone in the House of Commons, they face the risk of being pushed before they jump.'
He added: 'Parliament should draw up the lines. I would like to see Parliament being more assertive anyway, rather than necessarily waiting for the Government to act.'
There is growing outrage at the use of injunctions to prevent reporting of their private lives. Mark Stephens, a media lawyer with London-based Finers Stephens Innocent, said Mr Marr's decision showed that the current system was 'untenable going forward', adding: 'This could sound the death knell for super-injunctions.'
Tory MP Philip Davies, who sits on the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said Mr Marr’s decision made a 'further mockery of the super-injunction culture', while John Kampfner of press freedom campaigners Index on Censorship said: 'While there may be exceptional circumstances in which injunctions may be necessary, we now are seeing gagging orders being used to hide the wealthy from embarrassment and even commercial damage. 'We are in danger of creating a network of secret rich man’s justice.'


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