Seeking a haven in a legal storm

This is the story of a publicist caught in the legal storms shaking the media. He has been told that his phone number, and those of some clients, feature in the police reinvestigation of the News of the World phone hacking.

Legal storm: Ian Monk
Legal storm: Ian Monk

Initial police evidence suggests that calls and voicemails may have been intercepted by journalists five years ago. Does he advise clients whose privacy may have been breached to join those now launching civil actions against News International? Might launching his own potentially lucrative legal action compromise his ability to operate with News International in future on behalf of his clients?

Does the canny publicist look naive for compromising his clients by leaving their messages lying in his phone without a security code?

Suddenly he finds himself caught in the other great media storm. He advises another client to secure a 'super-injunction' to prevent media disclosure of details of their private life.

The initial story is stopped in mainstream media, but the client's combined PR and legal strategies suffer two separate volleys of collateral damage.

Amid the internet chatter sparked by these draconian injunctions, the high-profile client's name is revealed. At the same time, the newspapers begin a concerted front-page campaign against the threat posed to press freedom by super-injunctions. Bitter rivals produce almost identical stories as they rise up against the judiciary. The BBC joins in with relish.

Publicist and client fear the media fury is piling more pressure on the injunction. If it is lifted, how much worse will the story be? Not only did the client 'stray', but they also tried to 'gag' the press.

Super-injunctions are so wide-ranging in their prohibitions that I should say that the tale of this particular publicist could be apocryphal. Even if it were, the issues and the questions it raises are real.

The media and the law are at war. The changing landscape of the conflict will shape many a reputation management strategy.

- Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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