Wednesday, February 24, 2010
News of the screwed posted by Richard Seymour
However, the report also implicates the Metropolitan Police and PCC in a refusal to investigate the evidence. The PCC was predictably receptive to the Murdoch paper's official version of events. It is a body run by establishment figures and dominated by the newspaper industry, and even though its rulings have no legal power, it generally interprets its codes to accomodate the interests of big publishers (as per the case of Jan Moir's inaccurate homophobic tirade). Meanwhile the police simply refused to pursue the evidence on unsatisfactory grounds (a desire to protect politicians implicated from unwelcome public scrutiny, and a wish to pursue the most substantive charges), the effect of which was to support NotW's "rotten apple" story. This looks very much like parts of the establishment looking after one of its own. The remit of the report is also much broader than issues to do with the phone tapping scandal. The problem of vexatious injunctions being sought, and delaying appeals processes being engaged, to protect powerful entities such as Trafigura from scrutiny, is raised. There is also the issue of how papers conducted themselves during the crusade over a missing white girl (Marilyn, was it? Maudie? Maudlin? Something like that), especially in light of the papers repeatedly losing libel suits to the parents of the missing munchkin. Various recommendations, bearing on the interpretation of privacy laws, the avoidance of illegitimate injunctions, the strengthening of the PCC, and the upholding of 'standards' are made, some of them positive, most of them actually deferring the issue to parliament.
One hesitates to endorse any process that might give apear to give credibility to Britain's onerous libel laws. Any strengthening of privacy laws will undoubtedly be used to silence legitimate criticism, or engage in vexatious law suits against minor publications, bloggers, etc. And any power that the PCC accumulates as a result of these findings is unlikely to be used to the disadvantage of the major publishers, since the PCC a) only responds to a very limited number of cases, b) usually refuses to pursue complaints by members of the public unless some principals involved in the story support the complaint, and c) usually finds in favour of the papers it represents and supposedly regulates. But a number of real problems with the rabid conduct of the scum British press are at least identified, and the present situation in which newspapers can break the law often with impunity, bully usually powerless members of the public, defame victims, harrass minorities and print fanciful and scaremongering lies about them (consider the recent Glen Jenvey scandal, which was exposed by Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads) is patently indefensible.