Cork privacy seminar discussed TV3’s Lenihan revelations

Press Council and Ombudsman logoToday’s Irish Times carries two interesting interlinked reports. The first is about yesterday’s Press Council seminar in Cork, the second is about TV3’s exposure of Brian Lenihan’s illness, which – unsurprisingly – was one of the issues discussed at the seminar.

First, yesterday’s seminar in Cork:

Media’s role vital to liberty, says Dunne

Freedom would mean less without a free media, entrepreneur Ben Dunne told a seminar organised in Cork yesterday by the Press Council of Ireland. … He condemned the broadcast of the Brian Lenihan story on TV3 on December 26th, saying that it “crossed a line it did not need to cross”. However, he added that TV3 was not the only offender in relation to breaches of privacy.

Another speaker, Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes, told the seminar that the phenomenal development of the internet posed challenges to traditional ideas of privacy and data protection. …

Tightening privacy laws is a recipe for “non-accountability, secrecy and duplicity”, the seminar was told by Paul Drury, managing editor of the Irish Daily Mail, who added that he was wary of any proposal to legislate for heightened privacy.

Paul Drury will be very well aware that TV3’s revelations of Brian Lenihan’s illness could make privacy legislation more likely, even though the Minister himself seems remarkably phlegmatic about it:

Lenihan says he was rushed into telling children about cancer

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has told a local newspaper [the Community Voice newspaper in Blanchardstown] he was rushed into telling his children about his cancer diagnosis on St Stephen’s Day because TV3 had decided to run the story. …

Mr Lenihan said while he did not see what public interest was served between St Stephen’s Day and the new year by TV3 broadcasting the story, he did not intend to lose sleep over it.

Update: Three quick comments. First, thanks, Damien, in the comments below, for pointing me towards the Examiner report on the seminar Dunne slates TV3 for lack of fairness. Second, I couldn’t agree more with Noreen’s comment below that ” the notion that there is supposed to be some kind of journalistic obligation to keep politicians’ secrets is deeply unsettling. It’s in the nature of the media to report the news about public officials. If you’re a journalist, it’s called doing your job”. And, third, there is more about Brian Lenihan’s interview with the Community Voice in a story in today’s Irish Independent.