Thursday, 7 July 2011

Why we must be careful with the future of journalism

Undoubtedly the single most important news story of the past week has been that centering around the News of the World and the deplorable actions of some of its staff.

There can be no excuse for the alleged intrusions that have taken place in the lives of victims of crime and tragedies such as the families of Milly Dowler and those who lost loved ones on 7/7.

Those who are responsible, including those who are vicariously responsible, should be brought to book with the full force of the law and yes, those who finance News International in any way, including advertisers, newsagents and customers should consider whether they wish to do so.

It is of course correct that an inquiry takes place which looks thoroughly at the actions of the press in this case and whether similar techniques of intrusion have been used more widely by the media.

However, I believe that we are at a fork in the metaphorical road and we must be careful that we take the right track.

Some members of the journalistic profession have been guilty of serious wrongdoing, however, many have the highest standards of integrity and a deeply held personal belief that we, the public, have the right to truth.

There is a long tradition of investigative journalists revealing major wrongdoings in the public interest, whether that be the Washington Post in respect of Watergate or the Daily Telegraph revealing the parliamentary expenses scandal.

We must be careful that in addressing the current News of the World scandal we do not give way to those who may wish to limit valid investigation.

We must remember that for every Glenn Mulcaire there is a Woodward or Bernstein, who the public owes a real debt (or at least thanks) to.

It is a truism that bad cases make for bad law. There is no case worse than this current debacle and therefore we must be careful that we do not take kneejerk reactions which may hamstring the journalistic profession and detrimentally affect our right to the truth for years to come.

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