Whispering tweet nothings - The Chron looks at how and why superinjunctions are dominating the media

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WHEN the end of year reviews do the rounds in December, it’s likely one of the topics on the list will remain sketchy, to say the least.

For while the superinjunction has been dominating conversation over the past few weeks, the details for the most part are speculation.

Anyone with a decent command of Google and 30 seconds on the internet can find all manner of stories about the rich and the famous and their often extra-marital goings-on, some of them undoubtedly false, some of them undoubtedly true.

Over the last few months the issue of the super-injunction has been discussed by the national media, with the orders attracting attention because they forbid not only any reporting of the subject matter of the injunction, but also that the injunction exists at all.

Last month Andrew Marr revealed he had held a superinjunction banning all discussion of an affair he had; while his is now in the public domain, others are nothing more than whispers between colleagues and tweets flying round cyberspace.

The details of super-injunctions are such that it’s not known for sure how many are in existence, though estimates suggest somewhere between 20 to 30 orders exist, relating not only to celebrities but also to (it is believed) high-profile business people and even an MP. Some people believe it is a right to be able to get an order to protect privacy, but others think it is unfair as it requires money to get such an injunction and unfairly protects reputations.

When Louise Bagshawe, the Conservative MP for Corby, appeared on Have I Got News For You recently, a pre-arranged joke with the producers relating to superinjunctions, in which she ‘named’ the holder of an order and her face and voice were obscured, became headline news. She described the reaction as a ‘media frenzy – which goes to show how ludicrous super-injunctions are’.

Her first point about superinjunctions is that they can’t, by their very nature, be revealed in the press, but anyone can go onto the internet and find out details about them.

“This is not what they were originally designed to do,” she said. “They were designed to do things like protect the identities of the killers of James Bulger. They were not designed to hide something as mundane as an affair.”

She added superinjunctions favoured the rich, famous men who had affairs, rather than the women, who were often not famous and had less money, who wanted to talk about the relationships.

“It’s their right to do so – they can make a life-changing amount of money. If they don’t want a person to talk about their affair, don’t do it. It’s her life as well.”

The secrecy surrounding superinjunctions means, by their very nature, details are sketchy, but Mrs Bagshawe said one pertained to a married celebrity who had an affair with a colleague, who was then sacked. This was sexual discrimination by both the celebrity and the company who employed both of them – but the details were covered by a court order, all because the married man did not want word about his affair getting out.

Discussions are now afoot at Parliament talking about reforming privacy and injunction legislation and the matter has been discussed at cabinet.

But changing any law will take time and in the meantime, guidelines are being handed down to judges.

The irony is that some of the people with superinjunctions will, if word gets out, become more famous for the order than they were in the first place. “You have to take the rough with the smooth if you’re in the public eye,” Mrs Bagshawe said. “A story will blow over.”

WHEN Geri Halliwell visited Emma Beard’s house during the filming of one of the first reality TV shows, the paparazzi camped outside her front door.

As one of the last 10 girls on ITV show Popstars: The Rivals, Emma, from Northampton, spent her time as a finalist living under the eye of the press.

“I had paparazzi camped outside my house for weeks,” she recalled of her time competing to get into the line-up of a girl band. Emma was not successful but the final five blew away expectations and as Girls Aloud, are regularly scrutinised in newspapers and magazines for both their appearances and their private lives.

“They’ve upped the ante now. A few of my friends have done shows like The X Factor and they’ve told me how it’s done differently now.

“Personally I found it exciting and funny, I thought ‘why do they want my photo?’ Cheryl Cole had her private life talked about and I don’t know if I could handle that.

“I had a few stories sold on my family and that’s the hardest. When it’s just you it’s work, but when your family are involved it’s really really difficult because they don’t ask for the attention.”

Fans have followed Emma’s career from project to project, which has led her to realise once you’re in the public eye, you always will be and your privacy will not be the same.

In retrospect she feels she held a lot back, but in the nine years she has been in the industry has begun to let her guard down because she knows how to handle the attention.

“You go into the industry because you have got a talent but all the other things are what they want to talk about.

“I think Cheryl is so successful because she’s always herself and that’s why people love her, because they see the real Cheryl. You have got to be yourself.”

Two years ago Emma took part in Paris Hilton’s BFF, in which the heiress sought a British best friend to spend time with whenever she was in the UK. During the process, the former Mereway School pupil travelled to Los Angeles to spend time with Paris and saw what the paparazzi were like on the other side of the pond.

“Once we had paps chasing us when we were going to a party. It was a 10-minute journey but it took us an hour because we didn’t want them to know where we were going.

“Her life is led by the press really, because she has to negotiate that, and it’s hard. I realised then that if I ever got to that level my life would be completely different.

“If you’re going for it you have got to accept everything about you, anything in the closet, will be revealed. They want to get that dirt.”