Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Stop the Dirty Digger benefitting even more from the dirt he digs

There are times when you have to put pleasure into the background - yes, even at The Voluptuous Manifesto.

But right at the moment, there's a scrap going on in the UK - a really big and important one, and I feel that it's essential that I raise it here too.

We've known for some time that The News of the World  was guilty of hacking the phones of celebrities and politicians for the sake of selling copies.

For many people, fame apparently removes the right to a private life – even when there is no legitimate public interest argument for publishing something about them. So we have seen a sort of mixed response to this – as illustrated by the recent case involving Ryan Giggs.

But what has now become clear is that, for the The News of the World at least, celebrity gossip was never the sole target. It seems that the paper also hacked the phone of murder victim Milly Dowler in the days when she was missing, before her body was found. Not just that, but operatives for the paper actually deleted messages from her mobile phone's inbox.

In other words, they removed and changed possible evidence – they intervened in the investigative and judicial process. One of the effects of that was to give her family and friends hope that she was still alive – that she was herself deleting the messages.

Not just that: it now seems that the police have visited the families of the Soham murder victims, after stories emerged about their phones being tapped.

It's difficult to know what say about this in a controlled manner. Not only did these actions break the law, they illustrated a total disrespect for the families and for human dignity: the only thing that was important was the 'story', which could make money.

I'm well aware that the trade of which I am a member is not a saintly one. Indeed, in many ways, thank goodness it isn't. We should never, as journalists, aim to be members of some elite or seek some sort of 'respectability'. Let's aim to be as unrespectable as possible – but in the right way, if you will.

However, let's move on. News International – run by Rupert Murdoch (or the 'Dirty Digger', as Private Eye so aptly named him some years ago) is on the verge of getting to take over even more of the British media than he already owns.

Unfortunately, British politicians of all mainstream parties are terrified of Mr Murdoch. He has a reputation as a king maker politically – and there also seem to be suggestions that his publications have threatened plenty of individuals if they've dared to suggest that they might ask awkward questions about the practices of his companies.

In that way alone, News International and Mr Murdoch are a danger not simply to an independent and free press, but to the democratic life of this country.

So I would respectfully ask everyone to sign the petition against his being granted permission to take over BSkyB. We can make a difference. And we have a little time left to act, pointing out that, on the basis of what some of his employees appear to have done on their watch (or not known about – which makes them simply incompetent) that he is not a fit or proper person to hold such sway in the British media.

Indeed, nobody is – and nobody should have such media clout in one country.

Please sign the petition.

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