Ian Hislop attacks Andrew Marr over gagging order

Apr 26, 2011
Eliot Sefton

‘Hypocritical’ presenter has broken his own injunction to admit he had affair

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, has dubbed Andrew Marr "a touch hypocritical" after Marr himself revealed he was the holder of a super injunction.

More accustomed to chasing headlines than making them, the popular and respected presenter is the focus of media attention today after he effectively tore up his own gagging order.

Marr said he was ashamed of resorting to the courts to prevent reporting of an extra-marital affair he had with a well-known female political journalist eight years ago.

He told the Daily Mail: "I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists. Am I embarrassed by it? Yes. Am I uneasy about it? Yes."

Marr took out the injunction three years ago as rumours were circulating about his affair at a time when he believed the woman had born him a child. Recent DNA tests confirmed the little girl, now seven, is not Marr's – after he had paid maintenance for her for seven years.

Like many other gagging orders, Marr's injunction was granted on the basis that reporting his affair would have an adverse affect on his family – and on his 'love child'. Some newspaper reports recently claim there may be as many as 30 super-injunctions currently in force.

Marr made the decision to go public after he was contacted by Private Eye, the Mail says, and warned they intended to mount a legal challenge to his injunction. Rather than go back to court, Marr decided to come clean.

Hislop today welcomed Marr's decision, saying the order had been "a touch hypocritical". He added: "As a leading BBC interviewer who is asking politicians about failures in judgment, failures in their private lives, inconsistencies, it was pretty rank of him to have an injunction while working as an active journalist.

"I think he knows that and I'm very pleased he's come forward and said 'I can no longer do this'."

Marr, a former editor of the Independent, is married to Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley. The couple have three children, the youngest of whom is 16.

While he may have become embarrassed by the court order, Marr defended his original decision to seek it, saying: "At the time there was a crisis in my marriage and I believed there was a young child involved.

"I also had my own family to think about, and I believed this story was nobody else's business. I still believe there was, under those circumstances, no legitimate public interest in it."

There is little expectation that others granted gagging orders in recent weeks, such as the unnamed premiership footballer, well-known actor and married TV star, will feel impelled to follow Marr's example.

Marr is a special case, says the BBC's media correspondent, Torin Douglas. "Because he is a journalist he felt particularly embarrassed. Others are not in the position where they think the freedom of the press is more important than privacy."

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