LONDON – The father of a missing girl whose family life was dissected in the tabloid press joined Tuesday with the motor racing boss whose sexual exploits were broadcast across the Web to demand better protection for personal privacy in Britain.
Gerry McCann, whose daughter Madeleine's 2007 disappearance from a Portuguese resort sparked an international manhunt, told lawmakers that the mass-media coverage of the search for his child degenerated into a voyeuristic "Kate and Gerry show."
"Our family have been the focus of some of the most sensationalist, untruthful, irresponsible and damaging reporting in the history of the press," he told a panel of lawmakers investigating media standards, privacy and libel.
McCann claimed that journalists covering the case became more interested in writing about him and his wife than about their child, and he said eventually he was forced to sue several British newspapers over the suggestion that the couple had caused the girl's death and then covered it up. The couple won an apology, but McCann said he "can't say that the damage that's been done has been reversed."
Motor racing boss Max Mosley, whose sadomasochistic encounter with several prostitutes was broadcast across the Web by The News of the World newspaper, gave a similar account.
He said his successful privacy lawsuit against the paper had failed to contain the damage caused by the lurid video.
Mosley, the president of the governing body that oversees Formula One racing, took The News of The World to court for alleging that the orgy — which he acknowledged participating in — had a Nazi theme. Mosley won his case, but he suggested the victory had been a hollow one.
"If someone takes away your dignity, you will never replace it," he told the panel. "No matter how long I live or where in the world I am, people know about it."
He appealed to the assembled lawmakers to carve out a protected space for individuals' privacy.
"I think the individual needs protection, and hence I think we need a privacy law," Mosley said.
Britain has no formal privacy law, but it is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to respect for privacy and family life. Celebrities, including Mosley, have used the clause to fight media exposes.