Friday, July 15, 2011

British Newspaper Obtained Confidential Medical Information on Former Prime Minister’s Child in a Legitimate Way

Despicable Act Done With Legally Obtained Information

Earlier The Dismal Political Economist wrote about the unfolding scandal involving possibly illegal and certainly unethical practices of British newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.  One of the most heinous acts, at least to The Dismal Political Economist was the reporting of confidential medical information on the child of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was suffering from cystic fibrosis.

Inspired by the actions of Mr. David Cay Johnston in correcting his mistake, as posted earlier, The Dismal Political Economist wants to correct any wrong impression generated by his post.

Although the post did not say so, it is possible that readers got the impression that the information published by The Sun (that is the paper involved) was obtained by that paper by illegally accessing the medical records of the Brown child.  This had been the initial story as reported by the British newspaper The Guardian.  That apparently was not the case, as now reported by the British newspaper The Independent.

The Guardian has apologised to The Sun after it made claims about the tabloid obtaining the medical records of Gordon Brown's son.
The newspaper said The Sun accessed the Brown family's medical files without their knowledge to find that the former prime minister's son Fraser had cystic fibrosis.

In a statement printed in its corrections and clarification section today, The Guardian said: "Articles in the Guardian of Tuesday 12 July incorrectly reported that the Sun newspaper had obtained information on the medical condition of Gordon Brown's son from his medical records.

"In fact the information came from a different source and the Guardian apologises for its error."

The fact that the information came from a legal source does not lessen the criticism that the Murdoch newspaper engaged in a reprehensible act when it published private medical details on the health condition of a child, solely for the purpose of selling newspapers.  As for that newspaper itself

A spokesman for The Sun criticised The Guardian for running the story and praised its own journalists for bringing its readers "agenda-leading news stories, with legitimate news gathering techniques".

thus helping to confirm every negative attack that has been made on the British newspapers involved in the scandal.  The Dismal Political Economist does not think there is anything quite as bad in journalism than writing about the medical condition of a child when that information was private and confidential, but he was wrong.  Praising the reporters for doing so is indeed worse.

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