Monday, 18 March 2013

Have the politicians actually got it right?

The story of how papers hacked into voicemail messages is one that has been going on for a long time. It shocked the world, understandably, and has led to News of the World closing down, and the rest of the newspaper industry to have to look itself hard in the face. They had not been acting decently and they were now caught out, something that they had to face in Leveson Enquiry, which effectively put on trial the whole industry.

Yet, after the whole country found it easy to condemn papers that were clearly out of line, the politics started. Politicians knew they had to act in order to be seen to be protecting victims, but also were very much aware that insulting the media means that they will not have many supporters when it comes to the next election. After all, when a newspaper endorses a party it means a lot of votes will be heading that parties way.

Then we have the actual things that matter, the morals behind the whole thing. The newspapers were clearly in the wrong, and something needed to be done in order to make sure that they did not do it again, but nobody is really sure of what to do. Should they come down hard on the press, with legislation that gives the government a lot of control over what was acceptable to do and what is not, or should they follow some weak plan which, while protecting freedom of speech, meaning that people do not have the sort of protection that they need.

Since press freedom is something that is essential if democracy is going to work, as criticizing the government is not only fun but is also necessary, people are really have to think about where they stand on the whole issue. The complication is that they also have to work out where the people that voted for them are going to stand, something that Cameron has not been very good at in the psat.

So, the political leaders have finally reached an agreement, one that was likely forced by Cameron’s decision to hold a vote on his own plans. He was unlikely to win, but there was enough uncertainty to make sure that Miliband and Clegg knew there was a deadline to work to. We now have a solution, one that we are not fully informed of, but a solution nonetheless.

And it looks like they may have go things right.

They are going for the centre ground, the setting up of a strong authority that can govern the press in a balanced way, and hopefully not lead the way for press censorship. When the details are fully released, it could very well be true that politicians might have finally got something right, for a change.

Obviously, since we do not know the details, it could turn out that the whole plan, although well-intentioned, could be a huge failure in both protecting people and making sure that the press stay free. It could be something that turns out to be an incredibly ill-thought out bad idea that results in people not being able to be honest in the press, but that is the worst case scenario. Hopefully, it will turn out well, as all the indications so far point to.

We have just got to hope that the politicians don’t grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

Update: The House of Commons is currently in the process of debating this

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