Since the downfall of the Press Council and its replacement with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in 1991, there has been an increasing tension between journalists and public figures over the disclosure of their private information. Public shaming in this form has become an emerging tradition in the media, as the definition of privacy has become an ever-shifting notion in our increasingly invasive popular media culture with the likes of reality TV shows and social media. With the introduction of the Human Rights Act (HRA) in 2000 as well, public figures are now able to go straight to court on privacy matters, which has ‘encouraged a new wave of challenges to the media on privacy issues in the UK courts’ (Tambini and Heyward 2002: 4).
The Human Rights Act (HRA) came into force in October 2000, giving effect in the UK to the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 8, The Right to Privacy, and Article 10, The Right to Freedom of Expression, are the two most important articles for journalists in the UK. A journalist’s right to express their views publicly always needs to be balanced against another’s right to private life, but many ethical implications are raised when trying to find a balance between the two. How do we know when somebody’s private life comes in the public’s interest to know, and how do we define the difference between the two? This conflict has become widely debated in the role of journalism, demanding a balance to ensure the best standards in reporting.