Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nick says "We are all Sun journalists now." Err - what ?

This post has been cross-posted at Harry's Place

Nick Cohen had a strange article in last Sunday's Observer, complaining that the British press is now under terrible pressure:
Rhodri Phillips was the 21st journalist arrested as part of the Elveden bribes enquiry. If it had happened in Russia, Iran or an African dictatorship, readers of the Observer would know what to expect. Amnesty International and Index on Censorship would scream their heads off about the need for a free press to scrutinise power. Intellectuals would send a round robin to the liberal press. There would be questions in Parliament, perhaps a Radio 4 documentary.
Hold on. Just because journalists are being arrested does not mean those arrests are not justified, indeed today we have found 8 out of 13 NI journos in the Glenn Mulcaire case have been charged with a variety of phone hacking charges. Also, arresting people for hacking celebrities phones where there is no public interest defence is very unlike arresting them for threatening political or corporate vested interests, which is what proper investigative journalists should be doing.

Nick also complains :
Detectives are not now targeting phone-hackers, whom even liberal countries would arrest. They are punishing journalists for doing what they have always done – talking to cops, standing a round, pumping officials for information.
Is that really what is being targeted ? Yesterday we had more info from Sue Akers about what is being alleged in another case involving the Mirror and Express as well as NI :
Two officers at high-security prisons allegedly took illegal payments from Mirror, Express and News International journalists, a senior police officer has told the Leveson Inquiry.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers said one officer had allegedly received £35,000.

But she said stories possibly linked to the payments revealed "very limited material of genuine public interest".

Trinity Mirror said it was co-operating with the police on the matter.
This is the kind of thing that is being investigated at long last, and as is continually being repeated at Leveson it is tabloid practices and crimes with no public interest defence that is the area that requires inquiry and that the police are targeting.

Nick I'm sure understandably has a lot of fellow felling for tabloid journos who he sees as colleagues, however surely it is time that the quality press started realising that the contemptible prurient and intrusive practices of the tabloids are not something that any journalist should be proud of and that the public really has had enough of it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

We haven't heard much about this in the papers

This post has been cross-posted at Harry's Place

Operation Motorman was an inquiry in 2003 when the UK information Commissioner looked into breaches of the Data Protection Act by the British Press.

An piece from the Indy here gives some of the details :
Operation Motorman was set up by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to look into widespread breaches of data protection laws by the media. In a signed witness statement given to The Independent, Motorman's original lead investigator, a retired police inspector with 30 years' experience, accuses the authorities of serious failings, and of being too "frightened" to question journalists.

"I feel the investigation should have been conducted a lot more vigorously, a lot more thoroughly and it may have revealed a lot more information," he said. "I was disappointed and somewhat disillusioned with the senior management because I felt as though they were burying their heads in the sand. It was like being on an ostrich farm."

He claimed that had investigators been allowed to interview journalists at the time, the phone-hacking scandal and other serious breaches of privacy by the media may have been uncovered years earlier. "The biggest question that needed answering was, why did the reporters want all these numbers and what were they doing with them?" His comments reflect badly on the ICO, and the Press Complaints Commission, which was given early notification of the evidence in the Motorman files. "We weren't allowed to talk to journalists," he said. "It was fear – they were frightened."

The PCC said last night that it had never been given sight of the Motorman evidence but had strengthened its code and issued industry guidelines which had led to an improvement in standards. All the information has been in the hands of the authorities since 2003, when a team from the ICO seized the material from the home of private detective Stephen Whittamore. Whittamore and three other members of his private investigation network were given conditional discharges when Motorman came to court in 2005. No journalists were charged, although the files contain prima facie evidence of thousands of criminal offences. Thousands of victims disclosed in the paperwork have never even been told they were targeted.
Now the Leveson inquiry has seen all the files from Operator Motorman, but as detailed here on the Hacked off campaign site they have not been made public. Today however there has been an application to make them public :
Lord Justice Leveson has recognised a request from the Hacked Off campaign for the Operation Motorman database to be published.

The judge said David Sherborne, barrister for the core participant victims, was welcome to formally submit the request if he thought it would highlight the culture and practice of the press rather than “who did what to whom”
A lot of journos would appear to have been in the frame after the Whittamore inquiry, see here :
The ICO later obtained search warrants for the Hampshire office of a private detective Steve Whittamore.[5] A huge cache of documents revealed, in precise detail, a network of police and public employees illegally selling personal information obtained from government computer systems. The personal information that Whittamore obtained from his network was passed on to journalists working for various newspapers including the News of the World, the Sunday Times, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror.[5] At least 305 different reporters have been identified as customers of the network.[6]
Mmm - I wonder if the cops are going to start going after the 305 journalists named in this investigation ? And if they don't what will that mean to the trials (if they ever happen) of the journos who are presently in the frame ?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Why don't we deport Abu Qatada to Belgium ?

This post has been cross-posted at Harry's Place

The Abu Qatada case rumbles on interminably. One of the odd aspects I've read is the fact that he is apparently wanted on a warrant from other countries such as the US, Germany and Belgium. Now, it seems the problem with deporting him to Jordan is that he may be up against a trial with witnesses against him that MAY have been tortured.

But if there is a warrant against him from Belgium why don't we just send him there ? I presume the ECHR doesn't think they torture witnesses. I've looked on the web for the possible reasons for this but apart from conspiracy theorists types saying that a trial there as opposed to one in the UK would bring out stuff that our security services might not like, can't find anything to solve the mystery.

I am not a lawyer, so this is mystifying me quite a lot, is there any one out there with more knowledge who can shed light on this issue ?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Was the Milly Dowler voicemail deletion story dodgy ?

This post has been cross-posted at Harry's Place

Oops - looks like the Guardian might have got rather an important story a bit wrong, see here from the Leveson enquiry today :
3.17pm: Garnham says it does not know how the Guardian came to report in July that "Met officers have approached Surrey police and taken formal statements from some of those involved in the original inquiry, who were concerned about how News of the World journalists intercepted – and deleted – the voicemail messages of Milly Dowler".
3.06pm: Neil Garnham QC, for the Metropolitan police, is now reading a statement about the latest evidence concerning the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone.
 So the police have basically denied most of the story that started this whole media frenzy.

Meanwhile Nick Davies has got in his mea culpa (sort of) here. But the Telegraph has a different view on that :
 But it emerged at the weekend that Surrey Police now believe that Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective used by the tabloid, could not have deleted the messages as he was only commissioned later.
The new disclosure was reported in The Guardian on Saturday and online late on Friday evening.
But the headline and opening paragraph made no mention of the climb-down.
It reported instead that “fresh details” had emerged and confirmed that the voicemail was hacked.
The fact that the deletion which gave the family false hope – and ultimately caused a national scandal – might not have been the fault of the News of the World did not appear until the third paragraph.
Critics accused The Guardian of burying the story.
Oh dear. I bet Nick Davies won't be getting many Christmas cards from NI folk this year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

More Wikileaks "collateral damage"

This post has been cross-posted at Harry's Place

There was a shocking story on BBC Radio 4 this morning about Wikileaks and the last remaining Jews of Baghdad (you can listen to it here).

Some more background here :
BAGHDAD — An Anglican priest here says he's working with the U.S. Embassy to persuade the handful of Jews who still live in Baghdad to leave because their names have appeared in cables published last month by WikiLeaks.
The Rev. Canon Andrew White said he first approached members of the Jewish community about what he felt was the danger they faced after a news story was published last month that made reference to the cables.
What has Wikileaks to say about it all ? Well according to this :
One of the 215,287 unredacted cables published by WikiLeaks (The site says it only published the cables after an encryption code for the complete archive was leaked by a journalist from the Guardian) provides biographical sketches of the 9 remaining Jews in Baghdad. In total, only 35 Jews remain of a community that dates back to 721 B.C. 
Yes its all the fault of the Guardian ! That would be the same Guardian that was allegedly part of a "Jewish conspiracy" to discredit Wikileaks.

What a royal mess Wikileaks has turned out to be.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

They sure do things different in France

This post has been cross-posted at Harry's Place

Where threats to free speech are concerned anyway. Look at how the French Left has reacted to the firebombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices. From France24 :
A demonstration in Paris on Sunday attracted hundreds of supporters, including some famous French faces, “in defence of the right to blaspheme”. Organised by the anti-xenophobia organisation SOS Racisme, the impromptu movement aims to fight “religious fundamentalism” and preserve democracy and secularism.
Sounds like good old fashioned standing up for secular values to me, the UK Left used to do that once as well.

Also here's how a French Left Wing paper reacts :
While the police continue their investigation into the fire, which they have classified as a terrorist attack, the magazine itself has been housed by newspaper Libération, which is one of a number of publications that reprinted the Mohammed cartoon in support of Charlie Hebdo.
But the left-wing daily faces the same fate as its adopted magazine. “If LibĂ©ration continues publishing those cartoons, then we’ll have to deal with them as well” said Ekber. 
Do you think the Guardian would do such a thing ? Answers on a postcard please.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

China's baleful influence on world politics redux

This post has been cross-posted at Harry's Place

The Chinese state continues to demonstrate its baleful and unpleasant influence on world affairs.

In a move that will surprise no one the Chinese vetoed a UN resolution on sanctions on the Syrian regime.
China's UN ambassador Li Baodong said Beijing opposed the idea of "interference in [Syria's] internal affairs" and that sanctions or threats of sanctions "may further complicate the situation".
No doubt the STWC would approve. After all the US was in favour of it so it must be "imperialism".

And bowing to threats from Beijing the South African government denied a visa to the Dalai Lama, leading Desmond Tutu to fury :
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visibly shaking with anger, compared the South African government unfavourably with the apartheid regime and threatened to pray for the downfall of the African National Congress (ANC) yesterday after the Dalai Lama said he was forced to pull out of Tutu's 80th birthday celebrations because he had not been granted an entry visa.
"Our government is worse than the apartheid government because at least you would expect it with the apartheid government," Tutu told a press conference in Cape Town. "Our government we expect to be sensitive to the sentiments of our constitution."
In a tirade that stunned South African journalists, he went on: "Let the ANC know they have a large majority. Well, Mubarak had a large majority, Gaddafi had a large majority. I am warning you: watch out. Watch out.
"Our government – representing me! – says it will not support Tibetans being viciously oppressed by China. You, president Zuma and your government, do not represent me. I am warning you, as I warned the [pro-apartheid] nationalists, one day we will pray for the defeat of the ANC government."
Meanwhile the regime continues its repressive habits at home as well, see here :
Chinese rights activist Hu Jia has criticised a proposed new law that would allow the secret detention of dissidents, comparing it to methods used by the former Soviet Union's KGB secret police.
Hu, one of China's leading government critics, was released from prison in June after completing a more than three-year sentence for subversion.
In a letter to a parliamentary committee considering the legal change, Hu said holding suspects in a secret location was a "painful torment" for the parents, wife and children of the person detained.
"This violates the minimum humanity of the suspect who is not yet convicted by the law and the innocent family members of his or hers," Hu said in the letter to the legislative working committee of the National People's Congress.
"Such KGB secret police-style Red Terror methods have been used not only on me but also a lot of people such as rights lawyers, dissidents, artists, petitioners and family members of political criminals."
Hu confirmed to AFP Thursday that he had sent the submission and also posted a copy on his new blog, forcivilrights.blogspot.com.
 What a brave man.