According to multiple salacious reports from sources like the tabloid National Enquirer, Furnish had unprotected sex on numerous occasions with Laurence, and Furnish joined Laurence and his husband Pieter Van den Bergh for a Dec. 2011 threesome in a kiddie pool filled with olive oil. (For the record, this might not be an “affair” at all, since John has been clear that his marriage to Furnish is “open,” meaning each of them can have relationships of a sexual nature with other people.)
Sensational, right? Absolutely. Unfortunately for British media, which could very easily seize on this story and blow it up on an immense scale, a controversial injunction in the U.K., brought by John himself, has the power to put English journalists in jail if they report on the story.
“This is an absolute farce,” British MP Philip Davies, a member of the Commons’ justice select committee, told British media.
Before the sordid tale could take off in the U.K., John, 69, secured the court-ordered injunction, which bars any mention of his or Furnish’s names in English (or Welsh) media. Before the Court of Appeal, lawyers for John argued that he and Furnish, 53, always wanted their private life private, having never courted publicity, and that releasing any details about their private sex life would be “devastating.”
Of course, English media have found a workaround (of sorts), attributing story details to a “well-known celebrity couple.” Since there’s no ban in any other country — or on the internet, excluding social media — the identity of the couple is merely a click away.
The story has caused a major ripple in the U.K. about free speech. Free-speech advocates and a number of British members of Parliament, along with the general public, have criticized the injunction. These types of bans have traditionally been frowned upon by the British people, who see them as tools that can be utilized by the rich and powerful to hide their transgressions from the public.
“It is not about the stories they are trying to stop but the absurdity of trying to prevent a free press identifying them when the whole world already knows who they are,” said an editorial in Scotland’s Daily Record.
Indeed, injunctions often defeat the purpose, since in many cases they just attract more attention to the event at hand.
“Should press freedom be curtailed by the rich on the grounds that they don’t want their children to be embarrassed?” asked blogger Paul Staines.
If the injunction is broken by a British media outlet, they could be charged with criminal contempt of court, which could potentially mean jail time. Even citizens who refer to John or Furnish by name on social media are subject to prosecution.