Robert Hampton

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30th November 2012

National Inquiry
Posted by at 8.08pm | In the News | No responses

The Leveson Report was produced after 16 months of painstaking inquiries and questioning. David Cameron was very quick to dismis its central recommendation – that any new press regulator should be “underpinned” by regulation – almost immediately.

The issue of principle is that for the first time we would have crossed the rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land.

We should I believe be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and a free press.

In this House – which has been a bulwark of democracy for centuries – we should think very, very carefully before crossing this line.

Misgivings there may be, but to so lightly sideline the key finding of the inquiry is a betrayal of all the victims who have suffered at the hands of irresponsible journalists. That includes the Dowlers, the McGanns, Christopher Jefferies, the Hillsborough families and – of course – the many public figures who had their phones hacked.

Newspapers have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted to keep their own house in order. When cross-examined at the enquiry, many editors and journalists appeared humbled and promised to do better in the future. Will they?

I’m a big believer in freedom of speech, so I’m wary of any law which could infringe on that even slightly. The press play a key role in democracy by (supposedly) holding our elected politicians to account – those same politicians who have now been invited to draft a new press law.

On the other hand, I think it’s worth remembering that many of the big national titles are owned by large corporate groups whose main purpose is to make money and help their rich owners to exert political influence. If the worst excesses of their muckraking are curbed slightly, I don’t think that is a bad thing. With great power comes great responsibility, etc.

At 2,000 pages the full report is quite heavy reading, but the executive summary is worth a look.

7th July 2011

It’s the End of the World As We Know It
Posted by at 11.25pm | In the News | 1 response

Wow, what a difference a week makes. The News of the World is to publish its final issue this Sunday after continuing hacking revelations, a Twitter outrage and an advertiser boycott.

You can argue (with some force) that this is a symbolic gesture; a stunt to try and draw a line under the affair. That may be so, but to suddenly close a profitable paper which has published every Sunday for 167 years is a massive step and one which News International won’t have taken lightly, even if the “Sun on Sunday” (or whatever) is waiting to fill the gap.

This shouldn’t be the end of the matter: there are still lots of questions to be answered. What about the allegation that police officers accepted bribes? Doesn’t David Cameron have too cosy a relationship with News International bigwigs? Shouldn’t the decision to allow the BSkyB takeover be reconsidered? Why is Rebekah Brooks keeping her job when staff at the News of the World (most of whom weren’t even working there when the hacks took place) are being sacked?

My parents used to get the News of the World until a few years ago when they switched without explanation to the Mail on Sunday. Is Captain Cash still in it? I liked that part.

4th July 2011

Phoning it in
Posted by at 8.06pm | In the News | No responses

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal has by turns been outrageous and occasionally surreal, but now it is simply despicable:

The News of the World illegally targeted the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler and her family in March 2002, interfering with police inquiries into her disappearance, an investigation by the Guardian has established.

If you’re not angry yet, read the rest of the article, particularly this part:-

Milly’s voicemail box filled up and would accept no more messages. Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the News of the World intervened – and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it.

The News of the World is but one tentacle of the slimy Murdoch empire. The Tory government are, little by little, handing over control of the media to these people, and with it, immense power to influence the political agenda and shape public opinion. Can we trust these people to use that power responsibly? Reread the Guardian article linked to above and draw your own conclusions.

Cancel your Sky subs, switch to the Sunday Mirror and – if you’re not doing so already – boycott the Sun. Hit them in the pocket; it’s the only language they understand.

4th September 2010

Hague and Myers, sitting in a tree
Posted by at 11.54am | Gay, In the News | No responses

The William Hague “gay affair” non-story is so weird. Is two men sharing a hotel room — in the absence of any other evidence whatsoever — really grounds for suspicion? It’s so sad that so much press coverage has been given to nasty rumours and gossip (especially when more important matters, like the News of the World phone hacking, have been sidelined) and I have to say, there seems to be an unpleasant tinge of homophobia here.