It’s fair to say I am not John Kampfner’s biggest fan. But despite his observations of free speech being presented through the prism of media self interest, this piece he had in the Barclay Brother Beano on Thursday; ‘The global war on free speech’ makes some very good points that all readers would do well to absorb:
… We need anti-terrorism measures, but not the outrageous Communications Data Bill currently being discussed in Parliament, that would give not just the security services but dozens of lesser public bodies the right to demand emails and social media traffic from any citizen in the land.
… We need libel laws, but not those that for years have indulged sheikhs, oligarchs and other super-rich figures, preventing anyone from writing about them.
… Everywhere around the world, it seems, the right to take offence has been elevated into a human right. Usually, but not always, this “right” is exercised through religious belief. Most cases are seen through the prism of “insults” to Islam. But this “right” now seems to be exercised by whoever wants it.
… Whose interests are served when local councils know that planning decisions and other dodgy dealings will go unreported? The same goes on a national scale, not just about politicians, but sports stars and their agents and businesses on the take. Investigative journalism takes time, requires patience and indulgence from editors, and costs money. That is the area that is being cut back most of all – to everyone’s detriment.
… But I have worked in many countries – not just under authoritarian regimes – where journalists are seduced by the offer of a seat at the top table, or are persuaded not to ask that extra question. “Go easy, we don’t want trouble” could all too easily become the mantra here.
However this necessarily takes us off at an important tangent. From a blogger’s perspective, why should it matter than any of Kampfner’s points are presented as media centric matters? Because it should be recognised that some bloggers/citizen journalists are already adding value in this area by shining a light on instances of misbehaviour and dodgy dealings that were previously the preserve of investigative reporters.
When the likes of Kampfner readily accept journalists are manipulated and effectively bribed and show deference to those with ‘prestige’, it should be a warning sign that government ministers are only interested in working with journalists on matters of openness and transparency, as evidenced by this tweet from the Cabinet Office on 17 October, quoting Francis Maude:
The glorious media is playing right into the government’s hands and is in lockstep when it comes to excluding ‘the people’ – the ordinary man in the street. But for the sneering journalistic condescension directed at bloggers by the self professed media elite, more examples of these type of stories published on blogs could be brought to a national audience by the legion of lavishly remunerated hacks. However, instead of the media working with bloggers they see them as little people, the great unwashed, whose stories are unworthy of exposure, so only a comparatively small number of people get to find out about them.
If the likes of John Kampfner genuinely want to champion free speech and bring attention to the murky activities of the powerful and the rich, locally or nationally, they could make an immediate difference by giving up their delusions of prestige and ending their policy of deliberately ignoring stories that common or garden bloggers uncover and publish. Not for nothing do we assert the media is not an ally, but a fully assimilated part of the establishment.