The Plastic Hippo

June 28, 2014

Journalism is not a crime

Filed under: History,Law,Media,Politics — theplastichippo @ 4:33 am
Tags: , , , , , ,
Three of these people are innocent

Three of these people are innocent

The scandalous detention and outrageous conviction of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt is an affront not just to freedom of speech, but is also confirmation that corrupt governments will stop at nothing in attempting to control an independent media or, possibly, the other way round.

More enlightened democratic governments have been quick to whisper their disapproval at journalists being held in cages without any evidence of wrongdoing and have summoned Egyptian ambassadors for a telling off and a preview of the latest lethal weaponry available at a discount for a bulk order. The free press were equally quick to condemn the incarceration of the three Al Jazeera journalists on cooked up charges of “spreading untrue stories”. The BBC`s Director of News, James Harding, told the BBC that;
“There is a responsibility that we have to report the story, to allow our audiences to judge the story as they find it”. He went on to say that when journalistic freedom is compromised, “we have to be out there and say this is wrong.”

As a former employee of News International, James Harding clearly understands the difference between spreading untrue stories and not reporting stories at all. Ignoring the scandalous flogging off of the NHS, BBC News bulletins are now required to carry at least one negative report on homicidal doctors, thieving nurses, filthy wards or institutional corruption within the obviously failing National Health Service. It seems strange that the blanket coverage devoted to the Farage creature prior to the European elections has all but disappeared now that the kipper in chief has been asked to account for some of his more creative financial arrangements. The double glazing at the recently refurbished BBC is so efficient that none of its journalists were able to hear an estimated 50,000 people on the doorstep protesting about austerity and then bringing parts on central London to a standstill. When he was editor of the Times newspaper, Mr Harding found himself in the unfortunate position of having to apologise for withholding information during a court case involving the hacking of the email account of a police blogger known as NightJack. James Harding attended the same public school as George Osborne.

Spreading untrue stories is, mercifully, not an offence under British law. This will, no doubt, be of great comfort to some sections of the media and to a collection of coalition cabinet Ministers desperately distracting attention away from inadequacy, deceit, failure and sheer unadulterated malice. Conspiracy to intercept electronic communication is, however, an offence under section 79 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 as a chap called Andy Coulson has recently discovered. Clearly, Andy Coulson is a solitary bad apple along with other solitary bad apples like Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck, James Weatherup, Dan Evans, Clive Goodman, Glen Mulcaire and dozens of other News International employees currently waiting to appear before the courts.

Obviously Coulson and the rest of the rotten orchard were not spreading untrue stories but merely hacking the telephones of victims of murder, dead British soldiers, politicians, the families of ordinary citizens killed by terrorist atrocities and some celebrities in pursuit of what The Sun newspaper once eloquently described as “the truth”. As Boris Johnson so wittily said, the entire phone hacking scandal was a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party to smear the Prime Minister`s newly appointed Director of Communications, a certain Andy Coulson.

It would be quite wrong to suggest that David Cameron was stupid to employ the resigned editor of the News of the World because, at the time, it was a very shrewd move. Fully qualified in peddling scandal, salacious sensation and “the truth” to the compliant masses, Coulson also brought to the table the surveillance expertise required by GCHQ to monitor electronic communication as is their duty under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Ironically, this was the very law that ensured his conviction.

Cameron, however, proved himself to be incredibly stupid by unnecessarily intervening with a public apology before the verdicts on other charges were brought. Had he waited until PMQs, he could have claimed parliamentary privilege but instead he decided to film his damage limitation in an attempt to collapse further convictions. It is now unlikely that a re-trial of Coulson and Goodman on charges of misconduct in public office will take place. Innocent until proven guilty goes out of the window after the Prime Minister shares an opinion and given the incalculable damage being inflicted on the legal system by the idiot Grayling, any future re-trial will take place in secret without any legal representation for the victims of crime.

When he did stand at the dispatch box for PMQs, Cameron started by claiming that the Coulson case proved that no-one was above the law in the UK. Earlier, he upset Mr Justice Saunders by being in contempt of court. Perhaps he should offer instructions to his older brother, an eminent lawyer, currently working pro bono to oppose the dismantling of the legal system. Sibling rivalry was encouraged at Eton. To defend himself, the PM summoned up the ghost of Leveson and waved the weighty report about as proof that our current Prime Minister is nothing more than a complete waste of space.

Claiming that Leveson had cleared him of any misjudgement, mistake, incompetence or responsibility in employing a hacker of phones, he blamed the civil service for the appointment. What the PM failed to mention is that Leveson did not investigate phone hacking at the News of the World because the case was subject to court proceedings and therefore sub judice.

Cameron also failed to say that that he was forced to instigate the enquiry in the face of public outrage and that he has failed to adopt any of the Leveson recommendations. Miliband, with the ball on the penalty spot and a block of lard keeping goal, not only skied his shot over the bar but also over the roof of the bloody stadium.

It was the start of a bad week for Cameron but having a big mistake result in a likely prison sentence for his mate and being in contempt of just about everything is small beer for this PM without a mandate. His complete humiliation in Europe, the empty threats and tantrums because a bloke he doesn`t like was offered a job and the ridiculous notion that only he can decide membership of the EU means that he has gone from being an embarrassment to a disgrace and then on to being a major liability. Chuck into the mix some very disturbing charges levelled at another one of his mates and the word “resignation” springs to mind but Cameron obviously thinks that “honour” is one of those British values that we should consign to history. But, all is well. On the night of Cameron`s squirming PMQ`s, the BBC Deputy Political Editor James Landale delivered a piece to camera outside Number 10. He said that phone hacking took place a long time ago and now that it`s out of the way the government can draw the usual line and move on. James Landale was one of the younger boys when Cameron and Boris Johnson ruled the roost at Eton. It`s a small world after all.

Along with history, honour and the occasional gratuitous beating at Eton, the real victims of phone hacking at the News of the World have been forgotten. One particular hard-working mum from a humble background just trying to do her job has had to suffer disgraceful harassment from a feral and rabid gutter press. Having intimate details of her private life splashed across sensationalist tabloid rags, this completely innocent woman can no longer leave her house without hoards of paparazzi and bin sifting hacks following her every move. Each facial expression, each word, each trembling knee, each accidentally removed hard drive and each mysteriously wiped email account is mercilessly scrutinised by red tops desperate for circulation. Before any cynics scream hatred at her for her admission before the media select committee that her newspaper paid serving police officers for information, that statement is covered by parliamentary privilege and is, therefore, inadmissible in court so leave the innocent victim alone. We can only hope that this poor working mum can rebuild her life away from the intrusive glare of a nasty press intent on spreading untrue stories.

In Egypt, journalism is not a crime; in Britain, some of it is. You will not see British journalists jumping on the Al Jazeera gaffer tape bandwagon in support of Andy Coulson. If he is sent down, he might spend the time writing a memoir. With time off for bad behaviour he could be out within weeks and then secure a juicy publishing deal first serialised in The Sun and then published in hardback in early May 2015 just before the general election.

The three Al Jazeera journalists might be out by 2021.

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