Flop of the month: Sir Elton John versus the media

Although there may be legitimate reasons for doing so, trying to muzzle the press with court orders has a nasty habit of backfiring on celebrities who take this course.

Court order overturned: Sir Elton John (credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
Court order overturned: Sir Elton John (credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
Earlier this month Sir Elton John lost a battle to prevent The Sun reporting claims that he sexually harassed a male employee.

John denied the allegations and his lawyers obtained a court order from the employment tribunal hearing the case, preventing the media from reporting it.

In February the employee and John settled out of court and the allegations were withdrawn.

This left The Sun free to argue – successfully – that the court order should be revoked and the order was duly lifted.

As always in these cases of media versus celebrity, it was not only the allegations but the attempt to suppress them that became the focus of media reports, which first appeared in The Sun on Sunday and were subsequently followed up in The Daily Telegraph.

This is yet another example, following the pyrrhic victory in the Supreme Court around the PJS ruling earlier this year, of the reputational risks of attempting to suppress the media.

This is particularly true of high profile celebrities, such as John, who employ PRs to portray them in a positive light but who then resort to lawyers when they are the subject of a negative story.
If you take factual accuracy in the reporting as a starting point – and admittedly that is a large ‘if’ – then surely these cases teach us that clever and timely reputation management is more effective at containing the fallout from a negative story than seeking a blanket ban on reporting.

It’s probably more cost-effective than taking legal advice to its logical conclusions as well.

Elton's still standing, but only just.

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