Written By: - Date published: 10:59 am, October 19th, 2014 - 63 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, brand key, democracy under attack, journalism, newspapers, same old national, telecommunications, uk politics - Tags:
The ideal of the news media as fourth estate is to provide a means for democratic debate about issues of social and political importance. It is a means through which journalists can hold those with power to account. Some journalists continue to try to fulfill such an aim as much as they are able. However, the transnational corporate media, and those with links to political power, these days work more often to stifle democratic debate.
Among those aiming to practice journalism in a way that contributes to, and enables democratic debate, while also very often speaking truth to power, are the following journalists: Nicky Hager, author of The Hollow Men: A study in the politics of deception (2006) and its sequel, Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment (2014) ; Nick Davies of the Guardian newspaper, who broke the story of illegal hacking by Murdoch journalists in the UK, as outlined in his book Hack Attack: The inside story of how the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch; and, as indicated in today’s Sunday Star Times, economic journalist, Rod Oram.
As the investigation into the Murdoch “hacking scandal” unfolded, we learned of the complicity between many powerful people working in Rupert Murdoch’s organisation, some members of the police force, and people in successive UK governments.
A Guardian review of Davies’ book says this:
This book is important … because it is, … the best account we have of the phone-hacking scandal and the attendant police corruption and cover-ups. It is, as well, the story of modern Britain and how its standards and politics have been degraded by one man’s ruthless acquisition of power.
However, the aftermath to the Davies brilliant fourth estate investigation, is sobering. As stated in the New York Times:
Still, Mr. Davies did not get the Hollywood ending he clearly wanted. … But despite his best efforts, Mr. Davies was unable to prove complicity within the highest echelons of Mr. Murdoch’s empire. Mr. Coulson was convicted, along with reporters and midlevel editors, but Rebekah Brooks, the most senior member of News International to be charged, was acquitted. Mr. Murdoch’s son James once at the center of the scandal, was never charged.
This is pretty much what Davies says in his interview in the latest Listening Post programme on Al Jazeera. Davies says that while the phone hacking has stopped, Murdoch and his style of news journalism, along with the abuse of power, and corruption of the democratic ideal, has not been defeated.
Davies also explains why the police were initially reluctant to investigate the alleged phone hacking. He says that is was lower level police officers who took bribes from the Murdoch journalists. The top brass in the police did not take money bribes not to investigate. However, their failure to investigate was quite often due to,
a desire not to get into a nasty fight with this very very powerful news organisation. And if you look at that fear – it’s the same where government is concerned, as where the police is concerned – part of it is individual fear, that this newspaper might come in and expose the sex lives of the senior officers. And then apart from that there’s is an organisational fear, that if these newspapers turn against us they can make every day a crisis, they can just destabilise us…
Davies calls the combination of this fear mongering results in “passive power”, whereby people don’t need to say to the police to back off. The police preempt this, and don’t attempt to take on such power.
Something like such “passive power” could explain why police have been relatively quick to do an extensive search of Nicky Hager’s home, while failing to do anything like that in response to Cameron Slater’s use of the illegally obtained hard drive of Blomfield (see Russell Brown’s post on this). As outlined in Dirty Politics, the Slater-Lusk-Ede smear machine used threats of disclosures of people’s private activities and sexual lives to get them to do their bidding.
Rod Oram, in today’s Sunday Star Times explains how such “Dirty Politics” adds to the already suppressive nature of reporting in a small society like that of NZ. Oram begins:
Is free and rigorous debate increasingly suppressed in New Zealand?
No, says, John Roughan, John Key’s biographer and a New Zealand Herald editorial writer, in his article available at http://bit.ly/Roughan
Yes, says, Nicky Hager, investigative journalist. He laid out chapter and verse in a recent article in the UK’s Guardian (http://bit.ly/Hager), as he did in his book Dirty Politics. His piece triggered Roughan’s blistering response.
I say yes. Suppression of evidence, ideas and debate, in ways subtle and now increasingly brutal, is my experience as a business journalist in New Zealand. It is no consolation we are just a micro example of an accelerating trend worldwide.
Oram gives to examples from his work last week, in which, what was in the past, the
ruthless exercise of power by a few to create a self-serving orthodoxy, has mutated into a virulent attack on trust, respect and social cohesion – for even greater self-benefit.
The examples have to do with health professionals being viciously attacked by the likes of Cameron Slater and Carrick Graham. Oram ends his column with a refusal to be deterred from critical journalism by those who would undermine democratic debate and honest investigations:
I’m not giving up on any of that…ever.
I say to the Slaters, Grahams, Odgers, Farrars, Edes, Lusks, Williamses, Collinses and all their ilk, you are destroying some good people and good society.