British PM blasts 'unsustainable' gagging orders

23rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister David Cameron weighed in Monday on a row over Britain's privacy laws, saying it was "unsustainable" to impose gagging orders on newspapers only to see them breached on the Internet.

The comments came after a Scottish newspaper identified a married British footballer who is using the courts to keep details of an alleged affair secret, and users on the microblogging site Twitter widely named the sportsman.

Cameron said in an interview Monday that there would be no simple solution to the problem, but parliament and his government would "take some time out, have a proper look at this".

Speaking to ITV's Daybreak show, he indicated that he knew the identity of the footballer "like everybody else".

Cameron acknowledged: "It's not fair on the newspapers if all the social media can report this and the newspapers can't, so the law and the practice has got to catch up with how people consume media today."

He added: "It is rather unsustainable, this situation, where newspapers can't print something that everyone else is clearly talking about.

"But there's a difficulty here because the law is the law and the judges must interpret what the law is."

Scotland's Sunday Herald was the first British newspaper or broadcaster to name the player who allegedly had an affair with reality television star Imogen Thomas, after a London court ordered that he remain anonymous.

The rest of the British media continued to abide by the ruling on Monday but voiced their frustration at being unable to report what is being widely discussed online.

The footballer is taking legal action to force Twitter to reveal the identity of users who broke the gagging order, his lawyers said on Friday, but the action appears only to have caused more Twitter users to reveal his name.

Cameron repeated concerns he raised last month that court injunctions granted to the rich and famous were "effectively writing a new law" on privacy "which is what parliament is meant to do".

"So I think the government, parliament has got to take some time out, have a proper look at this, have a think about what we can do, but I'm not sure there is going to be a simple answer," Cameron said.

© 2011 AFP

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