The ABC Media Watch program has been “dangerous and simplistic” in its criticism of News Limited CEO John Hartigan in the wake of the Pauline Hanson photograph affair, according to News Limited’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Greg Baxter.

Last night’s Media Watch program suggested Hartigan’s campaign against proposed privacy legislation had been undermined by the publication of the photos in News Limited’s Sunday tabloid newspapers.

This morning, Baxter said that Hartigan himself had no comment on Media Watch, but that:

My comment on the record is that the assertions made by Media Watch are very dangerous and simplistic. If one story becomes the reason to introduce a new law, what kind of system are they recommending? A system that would have hung the ABC over the Costello dinner conversation so studiously side-stepped by Media Watch? Hypocrisy starts with Holmes not Hartigan.

Meanwhile, the Australian Press Council has said it will not be making a public statement on the affair, because of the chance that it may come before it for adjudication. So far, no complaint has been received.

The Executive Secretary of the Council, Jack Herman, said that if a complaint was made, the issue would be whether News Limited could establish the public interest in publishing the photographs and breaching privacy.

“Did the publication reveal something about her public role or her policies? That would be the kind of issue the Council would consider,” Herman said. This was assuming that the pictures were of Hanson. If they were of some other woman, then she may in turn have grounds for complaint.

Herman said that privacy complaints were harder to substantiate for public figures, but that in its adjudication concerning Senator Bob Woods, the Council had recognised that public figures do have a right to privacy.

In that case, the Daily Telegraph published photographs taken of Woods and his wife in conversation in their backyard by a photographer standing outside the home. The Council noted that there were legitimate public interest issues involving Woods, but found that the photos were “a blatant example of a breach of privacy” and that it saw “no compelling public interest in the obtaining and publication of pictures of this kind.”