Mar 2006 - Best press in the world?

01 June 2013

I keep hearing that we have the best press in the world in the UK. It makes me wonder. What do the rest of the world have? The Beano?

Two press stories have particularly troubled me recently: one is the News of the World's releasing video tapes of British soldiers apparently beating Iraqi citizens, and the other is closer to home and concerns the ASLEF dispute with London Underground.

The News of the World's justification for releasing the video pictures was that it was 'in the public interest'. What exactly does that mean?
Certainly it was in the public interest that our government and army chiefs knew of disgraceful behaviour by a tiny percentage of active soldiers. There is no excuse for our troops attacking citizens in an area we are patrolling in the name of peace. The authorities needed to know what was being done in our name. 
But who else needed to know 'in the public interest'? 
The result of the News of the World splashing this story all over the world has been devastating. It has led to hostility against innocent British troops in Basra, putting them in real danger. Whether or not you think our troops should be there is not the point: they are working men and woman acting on the instructions of the UK government.

It has cheapened and discredited the local Iraqi assemblies that it was hoped would start to lead that country along the path to democracy. 
It has led to further divisions within the Iraqi people. It has given priceless ammunition to the extremists. It has lowered the status of the British army across the globe.

All this was done in the name of 'the public interest'. I don't believe it. Do you?

I seldom believe anything in London's Evening Standard. I even doubt the football scores they print! But last month even the Standard excelled itself. It printed a story that our district secretary had been suspended, that members were considering wild cat action as a result of this, and that I was at war with the London members. If anyone had asked our district secretary, EC member, press office or myself we could have told them it was a lie. They didn't ask us. They just printed untruths to grab a headline.

Best press in the world? Frankly I prefer 'La Repubblica'. And I don't speak Italian.

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