Tuesday, 5 July 2011

"Freedom of the Press"

Freedom of the Press is a term that is thrown about a lot - either when an oppressive country is suppressing the press from publishing the truth, or when a celebrity tries to get a legal gagging order.

On the face of it, freedom of the press is something to be proud of. Our papers are allowed to say what they like about the way our country is run, it's allowed to expose the hypocrisy and lies of our leaders, and it is able to publish stories that encourage human rights movements. It's also allowed to publish complete and utter trash, if it wants, and as many pictures of naked women as it can fit into a two page spread, but that's another matter.

I should be proud of our press, or 'the media'. And of some sectors, I am. I think the BBC is a fantastic organisation, no matter what Cameron and the Tories think. But right now I am less than proud of certain kinds of publications that litter our streets and paper stands.

Yes, I am of course referring to the disgusting behaviour of tabloids and 'reputable' companies such as News of the World.
Don't get me wrong, I do fall prey to the odd front page story on a magazine about So and So getting back with his/her Ex. But only to tut, sigh and shake my head, and then move on with my life. It's not my business, really, though sometimes I might empathise with a celebrity.
Sometimes it can be a good thing for a complete rat in society to be ousted, if necessary. However the big furore about Super Injunctions and its coinciding with the 'damage control' Catherine Zeta Jones was forced to pursue because she'd been photographed leaving a mental therapy home, has made me question the legality  and the ethicalness (wow, apparently that's a word) of the Freedom of the Press act.

What I believe: Human Rights are fundamentally important. Each person is entitled to a lot of basic things - the right to live, die, privacy, safety and good health. There's a lot more there, but that's the basic lot.
Each person's right to do what he likes and says is restricted by how far it affects the rights of another person.

Example: Person A has the right to not be murdered. Person B technically has the right to do what he likes, however this vastly infringes on Person's A's human right to live and safely. If Person B takes away Person A's right by force and murders him, then his own rights - freedom to do anything he likes and to live as he chooses and with the above basic things - are forfeited, and he spends his days in a cell with very limited 'living'.

Bit of a crude explanation, but it's after 11.30pm and right now I'd rather get back to what I think of the press.

Catherine Zeta Jones, and other celebrities, like any other person, has the right to privacy. How much privacy a celebrity has is often debated. Should they be allowed their privacy when they're having an affair, or should they be exposed for the love rat that they are? Should they be allowed to keep their latest trip to rehab quiet, or should they be exposed in the hope that public ridicule will help them stiffen their resolve?
Catherine being forced to make a public statement as to why she was photographed leaving such an institution should not really have happened: she was legitimately seeking help during a stressful time in her life, similar to any body else. The way the Paparazzi shadows celebrities and just takes a photo of them doing anything, anywhere, and then criticise or praise them for how they are dressed, made up or what they are doing is actually intolerable, and I do not support magazines by buying them.

If somebody has sold their story to the magazine or paper, then they are fair pickings, really. They're being paid for the attention they are getting.
Hacking people's phones or lurking outside their bedroom windows in the bushes with a camera however is a crime.
Unless you have a court order and a warrant, phone-tapping is a crime in any country. I hope that News of the World gets shut down, frankly, and that Andy Coulson and his stupid deputy editor woman get brought to court. Not only have they hacked celebrities phones - a crime in itself - but the latest scandal, the hacking and tampering with Milly Dowler's mobile phone messages is simply disgraceful. Disgraceful isn't even a strong enough word. I can not quite phrase how indignant and angry I am that they even considered it 'ok' to do this. Not only did they provide false hope in a MISSING PERSON case, by making it seem that Milly had accessed her own messages, but it was done in order to get the latest scoop, somehow. And it was entirely illegal. If it were anybody else, then the hacker would be in custody right now, at the very least on charges of perverting the course of justice or tampering with evidence or something.

I've already commented in an older post on the Super Injunctions - I think that if Cameron is seriously upset about the way the courts are "making the law", where gagging orders are concerned then he should suck it up and make sure that changes are made to the way the Freedom of the Press Act contradicts and undermines elements of the Human Rights Act, in Parliament. I'm sure Ed Milliband is jumping on the bandwagon with this, though it's entirely plausible that he believes in what I've said as well, but I'd back his current proposals that reforms are made to make sure that the press only prints what is relevant and legally obtained information.

I don't care what people say about how it's "good to know that Rio Ferdinand had that affair and is a hypocrite because Terry lost his captaincy after his affair", because overall the way the paparazzi and the press have been behaving all these years needs curtailing. It just isn't 'news', or 'good' journalism, and it needs curtailing - celebrities are just as entitled to a degree of privacy and freedom from harassment as any other citizen. The fact that News of the World felt that it was perfectly acceptable to use methods that others had been convicted for (such as the hacking of Sarah Palin's email, or hacking other websites) just shows that certain branches of our press are taking the 'freedom' part of the Act far too liberally, at detriment to everybody else's freedoms.
Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press should not and does not provide immunity to illegal practices and stalking methods.

I am also entirely against everything Rupert Murdoch stands for, and I am against his bid to gain further control of the British media.
If you agree with anything I have said in this post, please click the following link and sign the petition.
Avaaz.org: Stop Rupert Murdoch - 3 days to do so.

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