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While the hyenas encircle the jackals we could all lose

  • July 20th, 2011

When the dust settles after the political hyenas have closed in on the leaders of the press jackal pack we  on-lookers could find our pockets have been picked. The hyenas have an opportunity to ensure that the jackals are 'better regulated'.  "Properly regulated" jackals will coexist more comfortably with the hyenas. Future lamenters for a genuinely free press may even wonder if the melee was staged, so obvious will it be that it suits the purposes of those who would benefit from less disclosure.

I will not defend paying the police for information. That kind of corruption is scandalous.

But does the rest justify the gasps and cries for the end of the media world? Phone hacking is rightly illegal. Offenders, caught, should be punished according to law. But there are many laws that we rather hope people will occasionally  have the courage to breach, so long as they accept that they will pay the price. Would we ever have known about Watergate if Deep Throat had not been willing to breach his duties of confidentiality.

First warning sign – the participation of the left and the Greens in this phone hacking frenzy. Given their  adoration of Julian Assange's publication of stolen information, does morality drives this feigned outrage? Or just hatred of Murdoch's capacity to speak to and for the masses who detest the left's PC sanctimony?

Second warning  –  The right's craven willingness to join in without articulating solutions in competition with the left's drive to regulate. Privacy law essentially asserts that people are entitled todecide what reputation they have, and to suppress unflattering information about themselves. It is a great new weapon for the powerful to hide behind.

Those who established free speech knew that important truths would rarely be uncovered if disclosure was either voluntary, or regulated in advance. Defamation was the constraint on infamous reporting, but truth was an absolute defence.

Licencing and prior regulation by the authorities is a completely different matter.  If you want to know what regulated disclosure produces, try getting the Police, for example, to obey the Official Information Act.

So what exactly is wrong with newspapers paying private detectives? We can't rely for the truth on official frankness. The courts would rather we never knew much of what the judges hear. So hearing Rebecca Brooks being hounded by MPs this morning, via BBC is no cause for celebration. They were pursuing the use of private detectives. I wish our media used them more.

 I can share the contempt for many purposes for which they were hired by News of the World. Mostly putrid gossip about passing celebrities.  But the outcome of all this could be new regulatory tools for truth suppression and intimidation of the media. This hysteria is a chance for the great to punish the impudence of our media, to confine them more to what is chosen for us, in our own best interests of course.


  • Tony Watson
  • August 3rd, 2011
  • 12:32 pm

Hi Stephen – I was a candidate for Act in CHCH Central in the 2002  election.  Have a curly one for you. We have a situation where we want to get a copy of an arrest warrant. Because it contains incriminating evidence that will be part of a civil claim against the police our lawyers are getting th run around from the police at the top level in the district. We do not want to go through the police complaints authority as we have already experienced bias and  major delays.  What options do we have to get what we want.
Tony Watson

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