This morning Gina Rinehart lost her bid to appeal to the High Court to maintain a suppression order around a legal dispute with her children.

The media will now proceed to report the details of what will, by its very nature, prove a nasty and fascinating spat between Australia’s wealthiest woman and her family.

Rinehart is a controversial figure, a mining magnate with forthright — and often plain wrong views — and now substantial media investments. She uses her wealth to get her way, and has spent a huge sum of money to try to prevent the public from knowing about her family dispute (including on laughable claims that her safety was threatened). She is a figure of legitimate media scrutiny.

However, suppression of information about a dispute, or the high profile of one of the litigators, does not instantly make it a matter of public interest. In covering the Rinehart family’s dirty laundry, the media should demonstrate where it is in the public interest. The family is entitled to privacy like the rest of us. To concur in the breaching of their privacy makes it much harder, with any consistency, to insist the media should not violate the privacy of others in the community merely because it is interesting.

The tension between freedom of speech and privacy is an ongoing one. Resolving it is always difficult, particularly in relation to high-profile figures. But is there anyone who believes the Australia media err on the side of caution when it comes to privacy?

The details of the Rinehart family dispute may well be in the public interest. If so, let the media demonstrate that.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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