Press freedom: Lord Leveson's report
Ramesh Sujanani, Contributor
Recently, Lord Leveson, who was charged by the prime minister of the United Kingdom to prepare a report on press freedom, submitted a paper that is causing some controversy and which will more than likely affect the free Commonwealth nations and their media policy.
Lord Justice, Sir Henry Leveson, titled the paper 'The Culture, Practices, and Ethics of the Media', and suggested that an independent, self-regulating board be established, free from interference from commerce and government, with the board appointment or election made in a transparent fashion.
He was careful to add that he did not recommend a statutory corporation be set up, but he suggested that the legality of the board be underpinned by a statute created for that purpose.
In the past five days, there have been misgivings among editors and columnists, who now wish to discredit Leveson's conservative report of 2,000 pages and four volumes.
A comment made in support admits that the pressure of circulation is now so great that media have abandoned their hold on reality. The comment further states: The press have bullied, lied and smeared the reputations of people who turn out to be innocent, and then barely apologised, if ever. The cure might be worse than the illness by proposing to throw shackles around the media, with no intention to attack the major slander and libel on the Web. It appears that the report has split the media, split the MPs, and split the public.
But the main criticisms against the press from the report remain, basically:
1. Statutory regulations involving the press.
2. It presents an attack on press freedoms.
3. It is all about news hacking, breaking up the story, chopping, and changing.
4. It stifles investigative journalism.
Now, to consider an article written by Cliff Hughes in the Observer recently, I would have to add the following comment:
Press freedom is one of the most fundamental freedoms we have today, thanks to successive governments of Jamaica. Freedom of the press and the freedom of expression have given great momentum to media freedom, encompassing cable TV, and access to the Internet.This encourages Jamaicans in all walks of life to express their opinions. (And it is within the UN declaration of Human Rights (art.19)).
It has allowed social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to report and comment on any situation and have it communicated instantly to every corner of the world. Social media have positioned our youth to become students in the best universities, locally and overseas, and to explore income opportunities. The phenomenon has allowed us to access medical services, information and a host of services.
Much of the freedoms are expressed by independent journalism, leaving these persons at risk to violent crime. So journalists are always at risk, and not much sympathy is elicited by police action.
I notice an attempt by the broadcasting authority to embrace media of all kinds, and wish to point out that cybermedia is not the same as broadcast media. Cybermedia have different production forms and destination capabilities which are different.