Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘News of the World’

Brooks Newmark and Media Hypocrisy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 28th September, 2014

Brooks NewmarkThe resignation of the Tory Minister for Civil Society, Brooks Newmark, after he sent a sexually explicit photo of himself to an undercover reporter from the Sunday Mirror has produced a salacious backdrop to today’s opening of the Conservative Party conference, but I feel Mr Newmark deserves more sympathy than condemnation. He says himself that he has been very foolish, but the Mirror journalist — who posed as a flirtatious Tory PR woman — effectively stitched him up in a deliberate sting operation. Had he been a blackmailer, he would have committed a criminal act. Had he been a policeman, it would have amounted to entrapment. But because he is a journalist and Mr Newmark is a politician the accepted view is that it is OK. Well, I do not accept that interpretation — and I am a journalist. One had hoped that with the demise of the disgusting News of the World, Sunday newspapers would drop some of their more dubious practices in their search for sensational stories. But the antics of the fake Sheikh — whose mtehods have recently been somewhat discredited –have shown that other newspapers are prepared to fill the gap. In the Sunday Mirror’s case, there is also a political motive, as it is Labour-supporting, and Mr Newmark’s indiscretion leaves egg on the face of the Conservatives. The journalist concerned will probably get a pay rise because of his scoop, but I believe he should be criticised, not praised. Not only has he ruined Mr Newmark’s career for the time being. he will have caused immense distress to the MP’s family. Brooks Newmark has certainly been a very silly boy, but then so are millions of men when it comes to sexual desire. He is now in disgrace, but to my mind, it is the journalist and the sort of gutter journalism that he represents that should be.

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Hacking Away at the Truth

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.

Link: www.geddesprize.co.uk

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European Liberals and Media Freedom

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 14th March, 2010

The governing Council of the European Liberals Democrats (ELDR) met in Rome this weekend, against a backdrop of public sector strikes and a massive demonstration against the Italian Prime Minister and media mogul, Silvio Berlusconi. Few of the Council members present (with the exception, perhaps, of our Russian colleagues from Yabloko) could have envied he Italians’ situation — operating in a country in which one man wields such enormous power and is shameless about using legislation to protect his position. On top of that, the mafia and other organised crime outfits have a terrible hold on many sectors of the economy. No wonder Italian Liberals (whose main political grouping these days is Italia de Valori) look north across the Alps to the EU for stability and support.

Yesterday morning, there was a seminar session on Freedom of Information, at which I was a keynote speaker talking about freedom of the media across the EU. Those of us who work as jsnalists in the UK are comparatively fortunate in the freedom we do enjoy to express our views (providing we don’t libel anyone or endanger national security), but the recent case relating to the News of the World suggests that our system of media self-regulations (through the Press Complaints Commission) needs an overhaul. I devoted much of my speech to new media, however, and the way that so-called ‘citizen journalism’ (whereby orindary people can report and comment through blogs, twitter etc, is transforming the name of the game. Sometimes this is in positive ways, such as the transmission of eye-witness accounts or of alternative perspectives. But there are also negative sides to citizen journalism, not least the lack of editorial control and standards, which means that a lot of the material out there on the Net is rubbish or outright lies.

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Europe Gets Centre-stage with London LibDems

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 15th November, 2008

jf-with-sl-and-dinti-battone

The European elections may still be a little over six months away, but they were very much the main focus of attention at the Liberal Democrats’ London Regional conference in Camden today. In the morning there was a session at which both the sitting MEP Sarah Ludford and myself (as No. 2 on the LibDem list) made presentations, as did Victoria Marsom and Chris Leaman from the party’s campaign department. I focussed on policy issues for next year’s campaign, highlighting the environment, the economy and security/civil liberties. The core message was that the party can indeed win two seats for London next time — as, frankly, it should have done in 2004 — while at the same time, local parties can use the Euro-elections to help them realise their Westminster parliamentary and borough council ambitions.

In the afternoon, Chris Huhne MP made a speech on putting Europe across on the doorstep. The LibDems are a party campaigning for reform of the EU to make it work better, but starting from the premise that European cooperation is a good thing and that many of the major challenges of our age need to be tackled regionally, if not globally. Dinti Batstone (No. 3 on the London list) gave an excellent and motivating presentation on targeting EU voters in 2009 — in other words, citizens of other EU member states who are resident in London and therefore should be encouraged to vote here. Simon Hughes MP, the outgoing party president, underlined the importance of European and international issues and the party’s commitment to them.

At different times during the day, both Sarah Ludford and I were able to slip out to talk to the annual LGBT Conference organised by the University and College Union (UCU), conveniently being held just three tube-stops away. Sarah was able to report on the excellent work that she and some of her colleagues in the European Parliament have been doing, such as putting pressure on the Labour government not to deport LGBT asylum seekers to countries where they might be executed or suffer persecution; extending civil partnership recognition EU-wide; and ending the US ban on inward travel/immigration by people living with HIV/AIDS. My brief was to cover the role of the British Press on related issues. Whereas there has been a welcome shift in the approach of some tabloids (notably The Sun, following Sir Elton John’s and David Furnish’s civil partnership and Pater Tatchell’s confronting Robert Mugabe) there is still a lot of subcutaneous homophobia amongst journalists on newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the News of the World, which erupts to the surface from time to time.

Links: www.libdems4london.org.uk and www.ucu.org.uk

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