Gotcha! – Des Freedman on the latest setback for the Murdoch empire

Des Freedman

Writing in Open Democracy, Des Freedman, co-editor of The Assault on Universities: A Manifesto for Resistancedetects a whiff of hypocrisy in Sun associate editor Trevor Kavanagh’s complaints about the arrests at the newspaper:

Kavanagh rages, in a lengthy piece in today’s Sun, that the Guardian-inspired ‘witch hunt’, which culminated in the arrest last weekend of senior Sun journalists (together with a police officer, an Army major and a MoD employee), ‘has put us behind ex-Soviet states in Press freedom’. The UK is now, according to a recent Reporters without Borders analysis, 28th in the World Press Freedom Index.

Except that what Kavanagh fails to point out is that, according to the report, the UK has dropped down the league table because of two things: ‘its approach to the protection of privacy and its response to the London riots’, neither of them issues in which the Sun, nor indeed McKenzie himself, can claim to have a proud record.

However Freedman also argues that advocates of media reform need to take seriously concerns about press freedom and should not allow the Murdoch empire to get away with turning a few journalists into scapegoats:

Advocates of a democratic media need to argue that reforms—such as those proposed by the Media Reform campaign for a right of reply, for a new accountable press body to monitor news organisations and for levies to fund new types of news ventures (discussed in OurKingdom here)—will actually enable the press to act more ethically and responsibly than they are able to do under regimes which are committed to serving shareholders more than readers. Far from shackling journalists, robust and democratic regulation that is independent of both government and the news barons will actually empower journalists to do their job.

The corruption that has been revealed in recent events is a structural matter and not one confined to a few ‘bad apples’, much as Murdoch would no doubt like to argue at the moment given News Corp’s sudden willingness to identify ‘wrongdoers’. The recent arrests and the evidence provided to Leveson provide the clearest demonstration yet that phone hacking and illegal payments go far beyond individual journalists and the now deceased News of the World and are instead symptomatic of a top-down corporate news culture.

Visit Open Democracy to read the article in full.

For a guide to journalism based on honesty, integrity and independence we highly recommend David Randall’s acclaimed The Universal Journalistavailable now in a fully updated and expanded fourth edition.

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