Friday, 24 August 2012

A Tale of Two Men and Press Freedom

Two contrasting stories this week tells the tale of how we might approach the ever thorny issue of Press Freedom post-Leveson.

We have Julian Assange using his soapbox on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to rally his troops that he is defending freedom of the press, i.e. his own Wikileaks website. Which is ironic considering Ecuador's record in its treatment of journalists and an independent press.

We have The Sun boldly going forth and publishing photos of Prince Harry in Las Vegas.

Julian Assange is wanted under the European Arrest Warrant to respond to allegations regarding rape. I do not have a problem with the concept of wikileaks. It is in fact not illegal to embarrass governments of all stripes around the world. And it is a bit of a co-incidence that the allegations surfaced after making fools of the US government.

However, Justice must run its course. Assange must go to Sweden and face the music. If, as he contends, theres no grounds in the allegations, then all well and good, he will be found innocent. If there are grounds, then he will serve his sentence. But he must stop hiding behind the fig-leaf of freedom of the press to prevent his extradition to Sweden. Freedom of the press was never intended as a means to an end to avoid justice. Wikileaks will go on, it may not have Assange as its figurehead, but it will go on.

The Sun published the photo of a young single male soldier enjoying himself. They decided not to pass a moral judgement on his behaviour. I would take that statement seriously if The Sun was not implicated (through News International) in years of skulduggery, phone hacking and promotion of celebrities out of all proportion to actual talent.

To be fair, it was never illegal to publish those photos. The Palace asked nicely and The Sun can cite "public interest" til the cows come home, its possible that there is an issue of reasonable expectation of privacy but under the IPCC code, the subject of the intrusion has to make the complaint before they can issue a judgement.

The Sun though, has thrown down the gauntlet. Its testing the waters ahead of any recommendations arising out of the Leveson Inquiry. Either that or its the last hurrah for the traditional red-top style of reporting before the definition of press freedom is changed for the better or for the worst.

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