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Leveson: PEN warning on privacy as Rowling gives evidence
01.01.70 | Lisa Campbell
English PEN has prepared a written submission to the Leveson inquiry, warning that if tough new privacy laws are brought in as a result of the phone-hacking scandal they could have a damaging effect on freedom of expression.
Meanwhile author J K Rowling is giving evidence about her experiences of press intrusion to the high court inquiry this afternoon. English PEN director Jonathan Heawood said the organisation was watching the progress of the inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Leveson, very closely. "Like everyone, we're shocked by the stories of intrusion and harassment that are emerging but we're very concerned about the impact of tough new privacy laws on publishers, booksellers and authors," he said. "We've seen how imbalanced libel law has become and we don't want to repeat the same mistake with a
privacy law that could stifle memoirs, biographies, and other works of contemporary non-fiction, and could affect fiction too."
PEN's submission to the inquiry addresses the role of a press regulator and also the nature of public interest, exploring how the term - often understood to relate to the worlds of politics, business and finance - can also be considered to apply to the freedom of people to write about their private life.
Rowling's testimony thus far has focused on her efforts to maintain the privacy of her children and family life. Rowling told the inquiry that she had spoken out about personal areas of her life because: "As a writer, your life becomes such an important factor in your work . . . I think our cultural life would be severely diminished if people aren’t able to talk
about where they get their ideas from."
When speaking about having long-lens shots taken by paparazzi while on holiday, Rowling said: “To call a spade a spade, I’m a writer, so I don’t think it’s of any public interest what I look like in a swimsuit.”