Thursday, October 10, 2013

Britain's Labour party should not be muzzling free speech

Some comments below by a Labour Party politician, who dislikes moves underway to set up a press censorship body under a "Royal Charter".  Much will depend on the final composition of the body, as yet unknown

For most people in the Labour Party, journalists, especially those working for Murdoch and the other press barons, are The Enemy.

Which is why there is near unanimity in my party in favour of state regulation. Before Lord Justice Leveson presented his conclusions, I spoke to colleagues and tried to share my reservations about what the inquiry might recommend. I was discouraged by the responses of some I would normally consider to be on the sensible wing of the party, who airily decreed that politicians had been the media’s victims for long enough. The boot was on the other foot. Payback time.

 The British press is intrusive, arrogant, vicious, unfair, unbalanced and generally infuriating. What a relief! That is as it should be. Politicians and those in positions of power should be wary of journalists. We should worry about what will be reported about us and our actions. We should shudder on a Friday night when a reporter from a Sunday tabloid calls us at home to ask for “your side of the story”.

There are millions of people living in parts of this planet who would die for the experience of living in a country where the press is unafraid of the government, where journalists make their own decisions about what to publish without having to look over their shoulder at a regulator comprised of (shudder) “lay persons”.

There was a time when the Left would have been first in line to defend press freedom, with all its imperfections. Freedom of expression is the first thing to go when dictatorship looms. Labour has a proud tradition of showing solidarity with oppressed peoples throughout the world, and part of that solidarity is support for a press unencumbered by state supervision.

By supporting Parliament’s Royal Charter for press regulation, to be agreed by the Privy Council at the end of this month, my party is turning its back on a core tenet of progressive politics: that a genuinely free press, however infuriating, is an indispensable foundation stone of democracy.

 Yes, at first glance the proposals in the Royal Charter seem reasonable enough. But once politicians take even an arm’s-length role in regulating anything, it’s a braver man than I who would stake his shirt on that arm not becoming shorter over time, the grip tighter. After all, who would have most to gain?



Anonymous said...

With the first link, a chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied --chains us all irrevocably.

Anonymous said...

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.

- Robert Heinlein

Anonymous said...

Some words of wisdom from the past...

Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.
~Potter Stewart

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.
~Albert Camus

The test of democracy is freedom of criticism.
~David Ben-Gurion

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

Bird of Paradise said...

The old Soviet goverment opposed labor unions like they did with Poland

Anonymous said...

Well said Tom Harris.
You get the Tongue Tied Freedom Fighter award for the day!

Stefan v said...

That John Stuart Mill quote is interesting. Unfortunately, there is One that has the power to silence all, but since He is righteous and holy, and always right, there is nobody that could say to Him, You may not, since to say that would be wrong. There is coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God. Yes, He is a totalitarian, and the sooner you get on board with that idea and learn to love it, the better.

Anonymous said...

Wow - Stefan sounds like an unashamed Stalinist - re the totalitarianism of deities (and didn't Stalin get his ideas from training as a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church? (Or is Stefan being sarcastic, as it's hard to tell sometimes.)

Anonymous said...

Stefan, have you been snacking on the local mushrooms?

Anonymous said...

muslim countries are the biggest threat to freedom of expression. Evidence? Just look at them.