Posts Tagged ‘UK’

Leveson media inquiry: the offenders are against legislation. How surprising!

December 4, 2012

The Leveson inquiry into UK media malpractices has recommended legislation to curb excesses. One of the objections raised was that government and media cosy up too much together. So it is hardly surprising that neither of these accused now want a new law.

But surreptitious connivance between government and media does no good to anyone. In particular, it is cold comfort to the many victims of media malpractice who testified at the inquiry.

I used to be a journalist myself, so I ought to be against laws restricting the press. But the perpetrators now sound insincere in pleading the age-old principle of freedom of press (which is in any case rightly confined by all sorts of other laws).

The UK press should take this on the chin and pay a price. Having reported as a foreign correspondent in countries with repressive regimes, I doubt whether the mild restrictions called for by Leveson would suppress inconvenient news. Truth will out.

Most likely, however, nothing much will change. That’s what I predicted in my blog of 23rd November 2011 and I stand by it. Not great, but journalism has never been a totally clean business. If journalists would at least obey existing laws, that would be a start – and perhaps all we can hope for.

Advertisements

LIBERATING AND CONVENIENT

August 23, 2012

Whilst I’ve been away from the UK in Europe, I’ve crossed frontiers a dozen times, and never had to show a passport or identity card, nor declare goods to customs. Eurozone citizens crossing with me did not have to lose money through changing currencies. I lost 8% to the money-changers by having to change sterling.

When I return to the UK on Sunday, I will have show an identity card at Trieste airport as I leave the Schengen zone. When I arrive in the UK two hours later, I will have to queue to show my identity card again.

I’m still trying to discover the supposed benefits of British insularity. Our currency is devalued far more than the euro is. Staying outside Schengen means we are excluded from sharing of security information.

Nobody likes too much regulation, but that’s not the sole preserve of the European Union – national governments do it too. Democratic accountability in the EU? Maybe not great, but Britain has a first-past-the-post voting system that usually gives exclusive power to a party winning around a third of the votes. Not supremely democratic either.

At least I have not only British nationality, but also Swiss, so like most Europeans I can travel around with a small plastic identity card in my wallet rather than a passport. Switzerland doesn’t even belong to the EU, but it has adapted itself to many EU norms and remains safe even after opening up its frontiers within Schengen.

In most respects I love living in England, the place where I was born and grew up, so I’m working hard on my insularity. But for the moment, I don’t quite get it. Just now, I find European harmonisation liberating and convenient.

Guardian phone-hacking exposure: a lonely road against latent menace

March 4, 2012

The Guardian led the way in exposing phone-hacking by journalists of News International. Other papers now cover it too, including The Times, a News International title, but for many months they looked the other way.

Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger spoke for an hour at the Philips Geddes lecture in Oxford last Friday about the lonely place his newspaper found itself in when it broke the story and followed up over a period of months.

The Head of the Metropolitan Police came to his office trying to persuade him to lay off. Another senior police officer turned up a few days later to exert more pressure. Subsequently it emerged some police and other officials were being corrupted by News International with regular payments for salacious gossip.

News International at first denied practically everything. Over the following months they admitted quite a lot.

Other newspapers kept away from the story, which leads Rusbridger to conclude they had an unspoken understanding not to attack Murdoch’s newspapers. Prime Minister David Cameron continued friendly contacts with News International executives.

Rusbridger can quietly count his triumphs. The two senior policemen have had to resign. Cameron has had to rid himself of the former News International editor who was his communication director.

James Murdoch and Rebekah Wade have lost their top jobs at News International’s UK newspapers. The group’s best-selling UK newspaper has had to close. A number of News International journalists have been arrested.

The newspaper rivals to the Guardian have had to follow a story they originally spurned.

And the independent Leveson inquiry into the media has been lifting the lid on malpractices and corruption of an extent nobody imagined.

When I was a journalist, I too can remember the hot breath of powerful figures occasionally leaning over my shoulder with latent menace, if not on the scale that Rusbridger must have felt.

He has an understated style and does not crow. All credit to him for walking a path others dared not tread.


%d bloggers like this: