Since my last post, typed on Thursday night, so much has happened that makes me visit the issue of respect again. Ok, well actually some of it was things that happened before my last post but I forgot to blog about them then.
Are we responsible? I would suggest we are.
News of The World
Well, today was the final issue of the paper. Some say it was a cynical decision by Rupert Murdoch to close the paper to try to save his proposed take over of BSkyB. They would say that the fact that News International registered last Tuesday, the website www.sunonsunday.co.uk shows that it was a cynical attempt to hoodwink the public. The fact this website was registered before the decision to close the News of the World (NotW) seems to support that view.
The final edition of the NotW seems to fail to make any mention of the wrong doing, but instead seems to suggest the NotW is the saviour of the world.
“The World’s Greatest Newspaper 1843-2011”
Hmm, wonder what the criteria are for being called the World’s greatest? Clearly committing criminal offences and bribing police officers assist.
“Thank you and goodbye, After 168 years, we finally say a sad but very proud farewell to our 7.5m loyal readers”
A proud farewell? How can you be proud after being closed down after widespread criminal activity including phone hacking, bribery, perverting the course of justice etc has apparently come to life. To be proud in such circumstances is like a murderer saying he is proud of his activities after being convicted but before sentence when asked by the judge if he has anything to say.
“We recorded history and we’ve made history”
Well this boast is certainly true. I can’t recall any newspaper being closed down in the UK as a result of criminal activity on the part of its management and employees.
“We’ve made a better world”
A better world? Well if your idea of a better world is a one of criminal activity and bribery of police officers, then it may be true.
“News of the World proved it is a force for good”
Hmmm, a force for good? So is good committing serious criminal acts and perverting the course of justice?
Then we could turn to the dirty digger himself, Rupert Murdoch, the head of the News Corporation criminal empire. A crime syndicate? I couldn’t possible comment on that. He arrived in the UK today, trying to sneak in by the back door- arriving at Luton Airport rather than Heathrow Airport. When asked by reporters today what his priority was, he said it was Rebecca Brooks.
LONDON | Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:40pm EDT
LONDON (Reuters) – News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch exited his London home on Sunday with his arm around embattled newspaper chief Rebekah Brooks, and told Reuters that she was his first priority.
Murdoch, who flew into Britain earlier on Sunday to deal with an escalating phone-hacking scandal at his News of the World tabloid that Brooks used to edit, answered: “This one,” gesturing at Brooks, when asked what his first priority was.
The two, both smiling, then went into the Stafford hotel opposite Murdoch’s apartment in the upmarket Mayfair area of London
So Murdoch’s priority is the person who was editor of the paper at the time the criminal activities are believed to have commenced. The person who either knew of the crimes, or as boss should have known of the crimes.
So, he’s not concerned with the several hundred innocent NotW employees who have been sacked through the activities she allowed to continue or even encouraged as editor of the paper.
He’s not concerned with the distress his employees caused to the family of Milly Dowler by interfering with her voicemails and giving the family false belief their daughter may have been alive, not to mention potentially destroying evidence in that murder case.
No concern for the parents of the Soham two or concerns for the families of war dead who all had their phones hacked.
Respect? Murdoch wouldn’t know it if it hit him in the face.
The matter gets even worse today, with the following story from the BBC website.
News International found ‘smoking gun’ e-mails in 2007
News International found e-mails in 2007 that appeared to indicate that payments were being made to the police for information, although this evidence of alleged criminal behaviour was not handed to the Metropolitan Police for investigation until 20 June of this year.
According to sources, these e-mails were in the possession of the firm of solicitors, Harbottle & Lewis.
So, what are we to make of this? News International executives knew 4 years ago of the extent of this criminal activity of hacking and also the payments to corrupt police officers. Hardly seems to be the activities of a rogue reporter now does it?
Other Media Outlets?
I for one am cynical of those who claim it was only News International titles that were responsible for crimes of this nature. I suspect that NotW are the unlucky ones that have been caught. They have over the years upset many powerful people by exposing wrongdoing at high levels. There are many who are no doubt delighting in trying to bring down NotW and News International as a result.
I have no evidence to suggest any other media outlets are involved in similar activities, but I would be surprised if they were not.
I regularly, when mitigating on behalf of clients used to point out to the court that they are having to deal with the offender because he got caught, not because he had committed an offence. You are only ever punished if you get caught.
Those of you either old enough to remember or know modern US history will know about the Watergate Scandal that brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1972. One of the two reporters who brave investigative journalism exposed the criminal activity of Richard Nixon and his presidency was Carl Bernstein. His thought’s on this affair are quite interesting and I make no apology for qouting them below.
‘MURDOCH’S WATERGATE’: CARL BERNSTEIN ON PHONE HACKING
The following paragraphs are excerpts from Carl Woodward’s article on the phone hacking scandal for Newsweek
‘Private detectives and phone hackers do not become the primary sources of a newspaper’s information without the tacit knowledge and approval of the people at the top, all the more so in the case of newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch, according to those who know him best.’
‘For this reporter, it is impossible not to consider these facts through the prism of Watergate. When Bob Woodward and I came up against difficult ethical questions, such as whether to approach grand jurors for information (which we did, and perhaps shouldn’t have), we sought executive editor Ben Bradlee’s counsel, and he in turn called in the company lawyers, who gave the go-ahead and outlined the legal issues in full. Publisher Katharine Graham was informed. Likewise, Bradlee was aware when I obtained private telephone and credit-card records of one of the Watergate figures.’
‘Then there’s the other inevitable Watergate comparison. The circumstances of the alleged law-breaking within News Corp. suggest more than a passing resemblance to Richard Nixon presiding over a criminal conspiracy in which he insulated himself from specific knowledge of numerous individual criminal acts while being himself responsible for and authorizing general policies that routinely resulted in law-breaking and unconstitutional conduct. Not to mention his role in the cover-up. It will remain for British authorities and, presumably, disgusted and/or legally squeezed News Corp. executives and editors to reveal exactly where the rot came from at News of the World, and whether Rupert Murdoch enabled, approved, or opposed the obvious corruption that infected his underlings.’
Are We To Blame As Well?
So, how did we end up here? Well, it was investigative journalism from The Guardian that kept this matter coming back to the public attention, but its more than that.
We as a society have lapped up the celebrity bilge and prying into people’s grief etc. by buying the red top rags like the NotW and glossy magazines like Hello and OK. If we refused to buy their tat, then they would either have to change their content or rapidly go out of business. So to that extent we are to blame.
We as a society have repeatedly turned a blind eye to criminal activity or even anti social behaviour by the media in our desire for tittle tattle. Remember after Diana died and all the media said they wouldn’t buy paparazzi photos. That lasted all of what? a week?
We have to take some responsibility for the intrusive journalism and the ever increasing demands for personal information. If we didn’t pay to read such stuff, the media would not survive if it published it.
We all need to look at how our activities affect others, both those immediately around us and the wider society.
Whilst all the media and public attention is focussed on the NotW story, there is a human crisis of unimaginable proportions developing in the Horn of Africa. It has hardly been mentioned by the media or the world at large. It is said to be a potentially worse famine than in Ethiopia in 1984. You will recall that famine resulted in the Band aid single and the Live Aid Concerts to raise monies to try to help the starving.
This time, the appeal launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee has hardly had a mention. Instead people are focussed on who has been listening in to who’s phone. Now, I am ordinarily a big believer in charity beginning at home and would rather donate to causes in the UK than abroad, BUT I find it incredible we are ignoring this crisis in Africa in favour of more tittle tattle about who has been listening to who’s phone.
Both stories are important and deserve consideration. However, one story is strangling the other story from our attention.
DEC aims to help prevent East Africa Crisis becoming a catastrophe
The DEC today (Sunday) set out the reasons it feared that the current crisis in East Africa would become a catastrophe without a substantially greater international intervention.
The umbrella body representing the UK’s 14 leading aid agencies explicitly rejected suggestions that aid agencies were ’crying wolf’ and said instead that they were right to raise the alarm before the current crisis deepened.
It cited the following indicators that the current situation was far more serious than the frequent seasonal droughts in the region:
• In some areas the drought is the worst in 60 years according to an analysis by FEWSNET.
• More than 10 million people have been affected across a wide area of East Africa.
• Acute malnutrition (GAM) has reached 37% in some parts of north east Kenya, double the 15 % emergency threshold.
• Child refugees from Somalia are dying of causes related to malnutrition either during the journey or very shortly after arrival.
• Prices of essential food items have skyrocketed, in some cases more than doubling as the price of the cattle that people are selling to buy grain falls sharply.
Disasters Emergency Committee Chief Executive Brendan Gormley said:
“The accusation that aid agencies are crying wolf when we try to raise the alarm early enough to avert a major catastrophe has become wholly predictable. We accept the need to present our evidence and justify our conclusions. All we ask is the opportunity to do so.”
“If the public are as generous as we know they can be, if world government’s step up and if our members and others rapidly increase their responses then a catastrophe can still be averted. If that is the outcome we accept that part of the price will be that many commentators will ask whether there was ever really a crisis at all.”
DEC member agencies recognise that long term solutions are needed to address the underlying vulnerability of many pastoralists in the horn of Africa and in many cases they are working to try to deliver these changes. However we are now facing a critical situation which could spiral out of control unless funds are received to support emergency operations.
Donations can be made at http://www.dec.org.uk/”>www.dec.org.uk by phone 0370 60 60 900 or by texting ‘CRISIS’ to 70000 to donate £5 or by post at PO Box 999 London EC3A 3AA.
Money from this appeal will be used to help people survive and rebuild their lives.
• £25 will provide safe drinking water for around 400 people
• £50 will provide vaccinations for 2,000 children
• £100 will provide emergency food parcels to feed 100 families in Kenya and Somalia.