Monday, 18 November 2013

Threat to British Press Freedom?

IN Saturday's International Herald Tribune (IHT) an editorial entitled 'British Press Freedom Threatened' began:
'Britain has a long tradition of free, inquisitive press.  That freedom, so essential to democratic accountability, is being challenged by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron.'

Because, unlike the USA, Britain has no constitutional guarantee of press freedom, the IHT editor claimed that 'Parliamentary committees and the police are now exploiting that lack of protection to harass, intimidate and possibly prosecute The Guardian newspaper for its publication of information based on National Security Agency documents that were leaked by Edward Snowden.'

In the USA the New York Times has published similar material from the same source, they did this believing the public has an interest in knowing about and debating the N.S.A.'s 'out-of-control spying on private communications'.  The IHT and Northern Voices believes that interest is shared by the British public as well.

The IHT editorial attacks the feebleness of the British parliamentarians writing:
'British legislators have ducked their duty to ask tough questions of British intelligence agencies, which closely collaborate with the N.S.A., and have gone after The Guardian instead.'

The Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, has been summoned to appear before a parliamentary committee in December to testify about The Guardian's internal editorial decision-making regarding the material provided by Edward Snowden.  M.P.'s have also demanded to know about the paper's decision to make some of the leaked data available to other journalists.  At the same time Knacker-of-the-Yard is busy on a criminal investigation into The Guardian's actions surrounding the Snowden leaks.

As we watch freedom of the press appears to be going down the plughole in this country, and it is taking the American IHT to sound the alarm.   The International Herald Tribune editorial continues:
'These alarming developments threaten the ability of British journalists to do their jobs effectively.  Britain's press has long lacked the freedoms enjoyed by American newspapers.  Now it appears they are less free from government interference than journalists in Germany, where Der Spiegel has published material from the Snowden leaks without incurring government bullying.'

We now know that for years there was a blacklist operated in the British building trade, paid for by major building companies, that prevented known trade union activists from gaining employment and went about spying on their families:  this week on Wednesday is the TUC Day of Action against blacklisting.  This practice was uncovered when the Information Commissioner raided an office in the Midlands in 2009 and discovered illegal data on the premises including a list of over 3,000 names, national insurance numbers and addresses.  Though the business was closed down and one individual, Ian Kerr, pleaded guilty to keeping an illegal data base, very little has been done by the government to hinder the practice of blacklisting in the building trade or anywhere else.   It is also known over the years that people involved in the shady business of blacklisting have had links to the security services and the police.  Perhaps it is not surprising then that the government is going for The Guardian over Snowden, while letting the likes of construction giants like Carillion, McAlpine, Balfour Kilpatrick off the hook over blacklisting.

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