There’s a story today (11th August 2009) that is on the front covers of eight of the UK’s national papers, both red and white tops. It’s the lifting on the ban on reporting Baby P’s killers. I won’t go into details of the story, because I think everyone knows what happened, and there’ll be enough places covering it today for the events and actions of the parties involved to be familiar to most.
What I’m interested in is this: did we need to know what they looked like? We know what happened – the coverage of the trials last year ensured that. Do we need to put names and faces to actions? The NSPCC doesn’t believe so, arguing that by identifying those involved more trauma will be heaped on the victim’s siblings. Does knowing what the offenders look like benefit the public in anyway? Where does the public’s right to know begin and end?
That was the line used during the Max Mosley/NOTW case. The NOTW claimed it was in the public’s right to know that the head of one of the world’s largest sporting bodies paid to get spanked. Mosley said it wasn’t. The case is now closed, Mosley the winner, but it doesn’t change the fact that, whatever their motivation in breaking the story, key people at the NOTW believed that the public’s right to know was a credible defence.
I understand that I am extremely fortunate to live in a country where freedom of speech is a given and the freedom of the press is a proclaimed to be a pillar of its democracy. But is it our duty to know everything because other countries deny their citizens this basic right? Does the public really have a right to know everything?