MEDIA REFORM COALITION RESPONDS TO PM’S THREATS TO GUARDIAN
As five senior journalists stand in the dock of the Old Bailey and David Cameron hints at the possibility that the government might take action against the Guardian over the Snowden leaks, we are presented in the most graphic possible terms with the reason why we need an organisation with clear ethical oversight of the press that will actually stand up for investigative journalism rather than merely protecting the interests of media moguls.
It should be a matter of shame that journalists are being prosecuted in the courts. There is no other democracy that would have allowed such a spectacle, but how would they have stopped it? They would have ensured, either through internal compliance mechanisms or through rigorous self-regulation, that the police and the courts are not involved in the oversight of press behaviour. Only a self-regulatory body that is capable of standing up to demands for profit maximisation at the expense of ethical behaviour would be capable of standing between tabloid journalists and the courts and that is what the Royal Charter, to be discussed on Wednesday, would represent. A self-regulatory body, established at arms length from both the state and the proprietors would also have understood the attacks on the Guardian for what they really are: a terrifying attempt to limit real press freedom. And yet here, in the UK, the very news editors who are attacking the Royal Charter have not only failed to protest on behalf of the Guardian, but have joined in with the attacks out of pique for the newspaper’s involvement in exposing their own excesses in hacking phones.
Press freedom needs the protection of a free, independent, regulatory body that is independent of the courts, parliament and the press proprietors. It needs to be strong enough to protect journalists from the commercial pressure of the proprietors and strong enough also to protect them from attacks by the state.
The parliamentary Royal Charter stands some chance of providing that protection. The Press Charter, cobbled together by a bunch of press barons and their cronies, would ensure that the proprietors of the mass market tabloids continue to decide what is ethical, continue to push the pursuit of private individuals to the limit and would do absolutely nothing whatever to protect the real freedom that the news media requires to stand up to the state.