Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Press Complaints Commission’

Diplomat Awards 2013

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 29th April, 2013

Ambassador BoomgardenHE Carlos dos SantosThe Langham Hotel, just opposite BBC Broadcasting House, claims with justification to be one of the oldest top-end hotels in Europe. Crown Prince Edward presided over the opening of its grand function room in 1865; this evening, almost a century and a half later, it welcomed the massed ranks of London’s diplomatic corps, at what has become a key date in the capital’s annual social calendar: Diplomat Magazine’s Awards for diplomats of special note, nominated by their peers. It’s true that in the interim the hotel went through some barren years, especially after the Germans dropped a bomb through the roof and the BBC then occupied it for offices. But now it is back to its former glory (despite recently hosting Justin Bieber, on the less than glorious London led of his concert tour). The Awards were presented tonight by Sir Christopher Meyer, former UK Ambassador to to Washington and head of the ill-fated Press Complaints Commission; he is now sucked into the corporate sector and performed with immense slickness and occasional wit. The laureates included the Christian Lady Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain (Middle East), the German Ambassador (who sent a deliciously subversive pro-European Unity message in his absence), the Ambassador of Brazil (South America), the Ambassador of Indonesia (Asia)  and the High Commissioners of Mozambique (Africa) and Trinidad & Tobago (The Americas). The hotel and various sponsors certainly did us all proud and it is a credit to the Diplomat’s owners/editors Hugo and Venetia de Blocq van Kuffeler that they manage to keep the whole enterprise going in these difficult economic times. With over 160 diplomatic missions London as a posting remains one of the highlights of any diplomat’s career and indeed for some being accredited to the Court of St James’s is the crowning of a professional lifetime, even if on occasions (as Sir Christopher wickedly reminded us, in the words of Henry Wotton) they are being sent abroad as honest men (and women these days) to lie for their country.

[photos show HE Georg Boomgaarden, Ambassador of Germany, and HE Carlos dos Santos, High Commissioner of Mozambique]

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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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