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Citizen Journalists Win?

You could interpret the suggestion that journalists be allowed in all future injunction proceedings as a victory by the media over a judiciary who can't be trusted to represent the public interest. Or you could see it as a dangerous concession that puts a trust in the media that history proves they do not deserve. I see it as a dash of each...and will be on the fence until i get to read Lord Neuberger's in full...but here is my current view.

Lord Neuberger's report is pending
It is clear that the current situation is unsatisfactory as it is being abused by celebrates to protect them from embarrassment. This was obviously never the intention of the supporting legislation, and i suspect that either the lawyers argued very cleverly in favour of the client, or the judges were just so out of touch that they thought the public would accept it, or even worse they thought they could get away with it. Having studied law for a couple of years, i dare to suggest the former is probably the predominant force working, although the judges must hold the ultimate responsibility for not being strong enough to resist. But we will never know, as the arguments are locked away in the High Court...and this is the bottom line. I can only theorise on the full judgement of the judges and therefore cannot make proper conclusions on the reasoning.

I imagine that these super injunctions cover two types of case. The one where the biggest concern is embarrassment, and the other where there is a genuine safety issue. We hear about the former because its absurd...but not the latter. We don't hear about the latter because the justification is so genuine that information is not leaked, or where it is leaked the papers choose, from a moral point of view, not to publish it. Therefore it is obvious to me that a certain level of restrain is being exercised in relation to the genuine cases.

So will allowing journalists into these proceedings really help the situation? I suggest not. Reasoning is very subjective...law students and graduates amongst us will remember many occasions where they have read a judgement and disagreed with it. Is this mere disagreement enough for the journalist to publish the details in the public interest? After all, that's what fellow bloggers and twitterers are doing at the moment. I can imagine cases where the media present will choose to publish something that is, in their opinion, outrageous and or unfair.

I think this is an inevitable risk of producing an "i know something you don't know" attitude, and therefore allowing just any member of the media into these cases is very risky. So can one journalist be trusted over another? Any sort of journalists labelling system is massively dangerous. Imagine saying that Journalist A can be trusted, but Journalist B cannot, and Journalist B will therefore not be allowed into the proceedings? No doubt citizen journalists will not be allowed into these proceedings...because we are not experienced maybe? because we are not formally trained? or because we cannot be trusted? This is very reminiscent of the state appointed Political Officers in the Soviet Union. So there is no way that some journalists AND citizen journalists can be judged more trust worthy than others without there being a freedom of press issue.

What other alternatives can there be? The judiciary can carry on as they are, in the knowledge that the public outcry over the super injunctions that we know about are acceptable considering the risks that come with exposing other current and future important injunctions?

Or we could keep the current system of secrecy, but have an office holder much like the the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice that is present to argue purely in the public interest. Or even better, have a jury of Members of Parliament (raising all sorts of separation of powers arguments no doubt!)

If the super injunction situation tells us, the government, and the judiciary, anything its that citizen journalism can, and will, make or break an issue. I am very conflicted about the issue itself at the moment, but i have no doubt that the use of blogs and twitter has sent a clear message to all public figures that they must behave, otherwise they will feel our wrath...and there is no state sponsored hiding place. Citizen journalism has got a stripe on its arm, and knowing that public figures will count this as a one off, i expect us to have many more in the future.