Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Was The Times right to unveil Night Jack?

The authors have deleted this blog. The content is no longer available.

That is what greets you if you try to read the first blog to win the Orwell prize Night Jack: An English Detective, written anonymously by a serving police officer, after the author lost a legal case in seeking an injunction against The Times newspaper, which has now revealed his identity.

The Times reports that:

The judge applied a two-fold test that is now established in privacy cases: first, whether the police officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy (in this case over his identity); and if so, whether that right to privacy was overridden by public interest in disclosure of his name.

The police officer failed on both grounds. Just because he wished to remain anonymous, the judge said, did not mean that he had a reasonable expectation to remain anonymous; nor that The Times was under an legally enforceable duty to protect his identity.

If that is the legal position, it is still a matter for The Times as to whether it wishes to unveil an anonymous blogger in this way.

It will be interesting to see how opinion now divides about that around the blogosphere and more broadly.

The Times also argues that the blog could have prejudiced cases which were written about.

Extracts published in The Observer offer a taste of the blog, which was described by the Orwell prize judges as a perfect example of the medium's power and importance.

"The insight into the everyday life of the police that Jack Night's wonderful blog offered was - everybody felt - something which only a blog could deliver, and he delivered it brilliantly. It took you to the heart of what a policeman has to do - by the first blogpost you were hooked, and could not wait to click on to the next."

Even in this more ephemeral age, literary scholars and the historically minded will also want the blog - as published - to be preserved, even if its author wants it removed.

1 comment:

Gary said...

No matter how they spin it, this was a truly stupid move by The Times. How they can possibly justify "protecting their sources" in future without coming across as a bunch of complete hypocrites is beyond me.
Time to start buying a different newspaper