I had a piece in the Crikey email today about Paul Keating calling for the rewriting of Australia’s privacy laws after his daughter was accused by the Sunday Telegraph of kicking and threatening a photographer who snapped her at the Absolut Halloween Party in Sydney last week.
Now, there are plenty of people who were at the party and who reckon the the Sunday Tele story was a beat-up. But leaving that aside (and there were no independent witnesses to the incident itself) there is a more important issue: privacy.
Now, why do brands like Absolut Vodka hold bashes like the one last Thursday night? Obviously, publicity. They invite people and then invite the media to take their pictures. Anyone who goes to one of these functions must surely expect to be photographed. Personally I can’t think of any more depressing way to spend an evening than being used to help plug a pretentious product, but then I’m just an old square.
However, Paul Keating is on a hiding to nothing if he thinks any parliament in Australia is going to pass legislation that will prohibit photos being taken at such occasions. To do so would be equivalent to banning celebrity – and then what would we do for entertainment?
And if a semi-public figure, or anyone else, is guilty of assault, then that is a legitimate subject of media reporting. Not that I am by any means convinced that Katherine Keating is guilty. The whole story seems pretty suspect to me.
But in this case, those who were at the party thought the photographer was being needlessly provocative – part of a modus operandi that involves provoking a public figure, then making their reaction the news. It’s an old game. Remember this?
How nice it would be if the necessary and important debate over privacy legislation could be conducted using examples of important stories – where the media really has broken news in the public interest that involved a compromise to privacy. Instead News Limited CEO John Hartigan finds himself repeatedly dealing with examples of dubious an, in at least one case, incorrect reporting.
Surely, in the whole News Limited stable, there must be SOME examples where privacy has been invaded, but for clearly justifiable reasons. Anyone got any?