chapter  13
18 Pages

– the law /

evasion anddefault

Journalists are not the best respecters of the law. They chafe against it when it impedes what they want to do, as it often does. Without publicly admitting it, many of them take the view by their behaviour that it is a matter of what they can get away with. In Britain, the attitude applies to official secrets and to confidentiality where, in both cases, the law is immoderate. It applies to defamation where, for somevictims, the ordeal of a courthearing intopainful personalmatters is a worse prospect than tolerating an unjustified slur. It applies frequently to news reports of notorious criminal cases when they are at the preliminary hearing stage in court, that is, before trial. The boldest British news organisations, usually national newspapers, will go ahead with a report that clearly breaks the law on what can be made public when reporting restrictions of preliminary hearings are not lifted, a law that specifies what can be said, leaving all else forbidden. These news organisations go ahead with an offending report in the knowledge that they are very unlikely to be prosecuted for contempt.