Hack by Sky News journalist Gerard Tubb justified ‘in the public interest’
No, no, a thousand times no. A private organization, in this case Sky News, must never be allowed to justify breaking the law for any reason whatsoever. The case in point involved hacking private emails. Yesterday, John Ryley, head of Sky News, reiterated:
To be absolutely clear, we stand by these actions as editorially justified. As the Crown Prosecution Service itself acknowledges, there are rare occasions where it is justified for a journalist to commit an offence in the public interest. The Director of Public Prosecutions Kier Starmer told the Leveson inquiry that “considerable public interest weight” is given to journalistic conduct which discloses that a criminal offence has been committed and/or concealed.
But we must not allow this and we must not allow Sky to get away with it. This defence of ‘public interest’ has far-reaching implications. Who defines ‘public interest’? A journalist in pursuit of a story? Can I justify hacking your emails because I suspect that you’ve been visiting illegal websites, and it would be in the public interest for it to be made public? How about a policeman beating hell out of a suspect he ‘knows’ to be guilty in order to gain a confession that will implicate the gang leader? How about our men in black waterboarding muslims because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and might be terrorists or know terrorists?
Public interest does not justify breaking the law. Sky will get away with it because the authorities will allow it – it lessens any restrictions on law enforcement and security forces doing the same ‘in the public interest’. That is dangerous.
But consider this. If Sky News can justify its illegal hacking in the public interest, then many of the Anonymous hacks can be, and probably more easily, justified in the public interest.
Prosecute Sky News.