Sunday, December 2, 2012

Guest commentary - Guarding the Guardians of Democracy

Newspapers influence public opinion
Over the past 30 months, we have seen the media's regard for an incumbent government slip from all-time high to all-in disdain. 

The government consequently has found itself having to devote considerable energies on rearguard action, even as it pushes forward to deliver on its manifesto pledges, after upfront adopting those promises as official State policy.

All in all, the government has made significant inroads in fulfilling those mandates, although there have been unwarranted hiccups, although much still needs to be done. 

Having hit the midpoint of its term (and, being a coalition arrangement), political norms tell us, around this time the people's esteem for the government would be at its nadir. 

However, from evaluating the sphere of competitive sport, we know that second wind kicks in when the eventual winner realizes she has not only survived a blistering first half, but is ahead of the pack at that stage. 

But competitive sport is civilized war, so sometimes offtrack manipulations do occur, in order to alter a race's popularly-favoured outcome. 

Politics is quintessential civilized war; quintessential off-field interference is normally par for the course, as recent developments in England have shown: regarding the way the Fourth Estate operates when it loses sight of its true purpose or becomes a runaway train.

British newspapers have reported that distinguished British judge, Lord Justice Brian Leverson, who led the official inquiry into the Rupert Murdoch affair has concluded there's urgent need for "new laws to underpin a tougher watchdog for Britain’s ‘outrageous’ newspapers". 

To get the media back on focus, Lord Justice Leverson "called for an independent self-regulatory body, backed by legislation, saying that decades of misbehaviour by the British press had undermined its own argument that it works in the public interest."

Lord Justice Leveson issued a statement that the British newspaper industry had “wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people” and “acted as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist”. He further pointed out the behaviour of the press “at times, can only be described as outrageous”.

It's noteworthy that, like in Trinidad and Tobago, the British press currently regulates itself through a body comprising only media personnel: the Press Complaints Commission, a body staffed by editors. 

Like in Trinidad, many say it's a guard dog that barks, but never bites, because it's a dog guarding against itself. 

To make the new UK media watchdog committee effeective, Lord Justice Leveson strongly recommended the UK's new media watchdog panel must not include more than one media person and have the power to impose fines on errant media personnel, of up to $10million, as well as order the media to publish apologies and corrections for false, malicious or biased "information" it publishes.

The British judge further recommended such powers must be reinforced by new laws since the thrust of his proposals is to ensure independent regulation of the press, with a statutory verification process. Or, as he put it, the politicians’ court (Parliament) “must now decide who guards the guardians.”

In the unlikely event it be claimed Lord Justice Leveson came down too heavy-handedly against the media, I must highlight he also heavily criticised politicians for getting too close to the press. (I interpret that scolding to be as sarcastic as it is caustic, for if one plays with watchdogs, one must contract fleas.)

(Read related: Leveson report calls for new press law: The

Given our firmly-set penchant for not believing in our own capacity for paradigm designing or shifting except if it mimics what's "in foreign", I beg to move we quickly adopt Lord Justice Leveson's proddings concerning re-guarding the guardians watching our homefront. 

Like many "in foreign" who have been pilloried by the unwarranted wrath of a media gone wild, I'd be astonished if we don't.
Humphrey Diefenthaller | La Horquette, Trinidad

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai