The Government’s response to the Weller privacy campaign has been welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Journalists.
In questioning from Baroness Smith about the rights of children to privacy, Lord Bates pointed out that the Press self-regulation system and the Ofcom code already contained safe-guards for protecting a child’s privacy, adding “We can deal with it [child privacy] in a common-sense way without the need to criminalise everyone who produces an image of a child.”
“Lord Bates comments are immensely helpful to the industry as it comes to terms with the court’s ruling in the Weller case,” said Paul Leighton, CioJ president. “The protection of child privacy is every bit as important as the freedom of the Press. But criminalising the publication of any pictures of children, without first obtaining prior consent from the parents, is plainly wrong. For one thing there will sometimes be a very clear indication of public interest, such as we saw last year with the schoolboy who killed his teacher while in class. On top of that, the pressures of workload will mean that it will not always be possible to pixelate faces before deadline. Considerations that do not appear to have been taken into account by those proposing the change to the law,” he added.
However, Leighton added the caveat that “Editors would be we warned to heed the warning about where they source their pictures. If the allegations about the behaviour of the photographer concerned are true then it would be shocking for a genuine press photographer to behave in this fashion. If it wasn’t a genuine Press photographer then buyer-be-warned; you get what you pay for. In this instance a £10,000 fine, plus costs, and an expensive appeal to follow.”