World's End Shouldn't Cost Freedom of the Press

Guido has read the News of the World since he was a paperboy in West London over 30 years ago. Those who don’t read it think “The Screws” is all titillation, randy vicars and soap stars. It is that and also great popular campaigning journalism at its best, reflecting the concerns of people other than Islington┬áIndy┬áreaders.

Politicians, the corrupt and evil feared it, today is a good day for them. Unfortunately when the drive to get the story crossed over into illegally hacking the phones of victims of tragedies, the good guys became bad guys. It has always been the case that the best stories often have a dubious legal provenance involving deception, subterfuge or law breaking, that is done to get at the truth that wrongdoers are hiding. Investigative journalists everywhere, including this blog, do it because it is the only way to get the truth. Using the dark arts to sell more newspapers with ghoulish tales is, as many have said, disgusting and unacceptable.

Momentum is building for press regulation, politicians of all parties are keen to tame the feral press. Public opinion is shifting towards them. This would be a mistake. The rich and the powerful in this country would like nothing better than to have a craven and beholden press. In many countries this is exactly what they have and ordinary people are worse off for it. Privacy laws are a trojan horse for censorship.

Privacy from intrusion by the state or journalists who break the law by stealing photographs, hacking, climbing over the wall into your back garden, that should be protected. Privacy laws should not be a means to hide embarrassment for those who can afford to hire Schillings. That way lies an untouchable ruling elite.

In the end Murdoch closed the News of the World because he feared an advertiser and consumer boycott (plus to try take the heat off the Sky takeover). If you disapprove of a newspaper don’t buy and read it. That is simply the most powerful restraint you have on newspaper proprietors in a free democracy. Even Rupert Murdoch fears his customers.

Restrictive press laws will be circumvented in the borderless internet age, however Guido would rather not have to try to expensively fight the good fight from permanently offshore. Meantime Guido wishes both his friends and enemies at The Screws the best of luck for the future. Oh, and thanks for paying the kids’ school fees.




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