As the Lord Chief Justice started dealing with the bureaucratic mess that is the legal system – in relation to libel, press freedom and the internet – there was hints that the system is as we always suspected it: an out of touch dinosaur based on imperialistic, authoritarian principles. http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/may/20/superinjunction-modern-technology-lord-judge
The Guardian write up by Peter Preston today (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/22/twitter-wikileaks-mockery-of-the-courts) talks about the battle between law and publishing freedom, citing the first run in with the official secrets act between Margaret Thatcher and Peter Wright over the publishing of Spycatcher.
British libel laws are an important part of this debate. Of course, in England the argument against internet freedom only really hits home when someone gets sued and a large organisation that has government ties has to cough up compensation. ‘This is costing us money!’ A very powerful man says ‘Quickly, we’d better do something about it!’ Is this why the courts exist?
And this is the problem. We haven’t actually begun to touch upon just why certain scrapes with ‘injunctions’ ‘libel’ ‘whistleblowing’ and other such legal terms have caused such a stir. It’s because this begins to illustrate the compromise law is. We are working with an outdated system.
Of course, this is not a black and white world. There are degrees of the law which function in fairness and many judiciaries that do an excellent job of delivering justice. We need to stop violent crimes and evil behaviour. This means criminal courts are functioning in a way which makes the country/world safer for us all. However, excluding criminal law there are issues surrounding the way in which law is used by certain wealthy individuals and cliques. This is the centre of this debate. Corruption begins and ends in money
The press is a complex creature and is almost a matter of conspiracy when speculating over its inner workings. However, if we look through history, it isn’t just a matter of conspiracy to suggest the power of the media attracted the wealthiest in the world and the power mongers used the media to maneuver their own path for profit or power. It is of the utmost importance that the law is to be updated if it has any chance of dealing with what is actually occurring with any effectiveness or fairness. That is, if we have a chance to do anything about it?
Compensation for Emotional damages? Privacy laws? Smear campaigns? Witch hunts? These are some of the more dangerous outcomes of a press which is out of control. Or to put it another way – in control. I wouldn’t like to know who gets placed in the public eye on purpose – but someone else definitely wants you to know.
To add to this, how quickly do we hear of a new story shortly after a piece of great importance has been in the public eye? Do we get time to question those involved about the truth? Not likely. I do not have a short attention span or the memory of a goldfish. I’m sure that the goal of the persons who control media information is for us to all have these attributes!
I fear that it is beyond our control to resolve any issue at all. Who is pulling the strings? Who is behind Reuters and the AP? Why are we not allowed a more independent form of journalism which can critique without approval of its paymasters? I suspect money is the key corrupter yet again.
We have a right to know who has placed an injunction. Money shouldn’t hide the truth. Similarly, when journalism goes too far – it should be punished. Just as the court case involving the News of the World phone hacking. This is not censorship. This is an attempt to reign in the mad behaviour of journalism. Stopping the injunction information from coming to light – this is censorship.
From a point of view of Bias and press freedom, interestingly this was published in The Observer – which is owned and run by the same organisation as The Guardian. I object strongly to the monopolisation that exists in these media organisations. This will be another battle – ensuring that press freedoms are guaranteed by their lack of affiliation to large conglomerates. But then, I would be barking mad to suggest the world was run by an elite few, eh?
Saying that ‘modern technology is totally out of control’ is too simple. I think the remarks of Lord Chief Justice are merely “how can I make my job easier!” Wikileaks, twitter and other internet innovations have illustrated that technology is trying to take some control back from the reigns of the powerful.
They’re going to have a tough time stopping it too.