Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 26th November, 2012
Perhaps it was being born and growing up in Singapore that gave John Kampfner insight into the dangers inherent in a social compact that gives citizens economic prosperity (and cleanliness!) at the sacrifice of some significant civil liberties. But certainly concerns about the nature and protection of freedom have been at the heart of much of his subsequent activity as a journalist, editor and former head of Index on Censorship. This evening, at a Pizza and Politics held immediately after the AGM of Holborn & St Pancras Liberal Democrats, he highlighted some of his concerns about some of the measures being considered by the Coalition government — not just the so-called Secret Courts but also proposals for greater surveillance of our emails and other communication traffic. As a convert from Labour to the Liberal Democrats (for which he has received much stick from earstwhile colleagues) John stressed how important it is for the Party to stick to its civil liberties beliefs. The records of both Conservative and Labour governments have been pretty dire in this regard, so the implication is that if LibDems don’t make a stand on freedoms then we risk losing our political soul. Nonetheless, we should take the findings of Lord Leveson seriously when they are published on Thursday. A totally unfettered Press can wreak havoc, as I would argue Fox News in the United States is doing. As always it is a matter of balancing freedom with responsibility, but for me that is very much what Liberalism is all about.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Fox News, Holborn & St Pancras Liberal Democrats, Index on Censorship, John Kampfner, Leveson Inquiry, Liberal Democrats, Singapore | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd March, 2012
As Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the Guardian, declared in Oxford this evening, 2011 was an extraordinary year for his newspaper. It published huge extracts from the Wikileaks files, exposing elements of US Foreign Policy that astonished even longstanding hard-bitten hacks like myself. And later the true extent of illicit practices carried out by journalists from the News of the World and other parts of the Murdoch media empire became clear. That story is still rumbling on, as Lord Leveson chairs an Inquiry that has been hearing great quantities of testimony from witnesses about the level of corruption in the relationship between some of the media and the Police, as well as the widespread nature of phone-hacking. Delivering the 2012 Philip Geddes lecture — named after a young graduate from my alma mater St Edmund Hall, who became a journalist and was blown up by an IRA bomb in Harrods — Alan Rusbridger said that maybe as many as 5,800 people had had their phones hacked. Some of the more famous ones have, of course, extracted large sums in damages from News International. But it was probably the revelation that someone had even hacked the mobile phone of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler that really brought the opprobrium of the general public down on the heads of some of Murdoch’s senior employees. It was brave of the Guardian to persist in its inquiries, at a time when no other media were touching the story and Rusbridger himself was visited by both Met Commissioner John Stephenson and Yates of the Yard, who told him there was no substance to allegations and advised him to back off. As Rusbridger self-deprecatingly admitted, he does not look like a heroic figure, in the Ben Bradlee mould; one friend accurately, if unflatteringly, described him as resembling Harry Potter’s lonely uncle. But now the fruits of the Guardian’s hard work — and in particular of several indefatigable investigative journalists — have paid off. There are bound to be yet more scandalous revelations, and the Prime Minister David Cameron must be kicking himself for having chosen some unfortunate friends. But one positive thing that may come out of all this, Rusbridger argued, would be the creation of a press regulatory body with teeth. The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has proved to be totally ineffectual. A new body could be called something like the Press and Media Standards Commission, Rusbridger suggested. And one of the first things it should review is what that fickle phrase ‘in the public interest’ means.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Alan Rusbridger, Ben Bradlee, David Cameron, Harrods, Harry Potter, John Yates, Leveson Inquiry, Lord Leveson, Milly Dowler, News International, News of the World, Oxford, Paul Stephenson, PCC, Philip Geddes, Press Complaints Commission, Rupert Murdoch, St Edmund Hall, The Guardian, Wikileaks, Yates of the Yard | Leave a Comment »