Saturday, 6 July 2013

Freedom of the Press

Of late, freedom FROM the Press, has become an important issue. Over-powerful media figures have, it is alleged, abused their positions of power - and ridden roughshod over the privacy rights of others; used their priviliged position to dictate to elected Governments; and misrepresented the truth to advance their own political agenda.

BUT

while "power tends to corrupt", we should be wary of rushing to shackle the Press. It can play a very important role in uncovering what "governments" (be they of Kings; Dictators or elected politicians) wish keep from us. There is an honourable history of the press standing up to the powerful (I continue to be inspired by the work of the Washington Post and other papers in uncovering Watergate). In Britain John Wilkes was an important 'hero' in the fight for freedom of the press. I've posted a few articles about him in the past - worth reading (IMHO)

http://washminster.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/english-heroes-john-wilkes.html

This comment appeared in the Australian Financial Review (though about Britain) -

"We have far too many laws in this area circumscribing free speech – not just Labour’s hate crimes legislation, or the Public Order Act, but also the Communications Act 2003 and the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

As a result, the police and prosecutors are able to move from one to the other to close down views deemed to be unacceptable. The fault here lies with the foe that Wilkes fought, even though he was a member of it: Parliament… We do not have a written constitution – or rather we do not have a constitution that is codified. But as Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said in an important and insightful speech shortly before the Leveson Inquiry began its work, “the fact that there is nothing in statute which states expressly that the independence of the press is a constitutional principle does not diminish the principle”. Lord Judge also quoted Wilkes: “The liberty of the press is the birthright of a Briton and is justly esteemed the firmest bulwark of the liberties of this country.”

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