Free Press

Europe's Eroding Press Freedom

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George Orwell

Britain, last year, let a bunch of long-time, would-be control freaks exploit a scandal about press (and police) conduct to impose an inquisition into the news media under the guidance of an authoritarian aristocrat. The predictable result of the Leveson Inquiry was a call for government regulation of the press, with Prime Minister David Cameron in the unlikely role of somewhat principled delayer of a rush to censorship. But even before our friends across the pond hash out what this all means in application, and how tightly the leash on journalists should be held, a leading participant in the Leveson Inquiry already suggests the effort didn't go far enough, and maybe they should think about curbs on this whole Internet thing. And quick thinkers across the Channel are way ahead of the game, calling for tight, Europe-wide regulation of the media in all forms.

Robert Jay, the lead counsel for the Leveson Inquiry, traveled to that free-speech sanctuary known as Singapore to dispel rumors that he and his colleagues were blessedly ignorant of the existence of the online world. According to the Times of London:

Internet service providers could be sued for allowing their customers to read defamatory comments online, under a new law proposed by the lead counsel to the Leveson inquiry.

Robert Jay, QC, who led the questioning of key witnesses including David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch, has suggested a solution for regulating the internet after Lord Justice Leveson largely ducked the issue in his 2,000-page report.

Acknowledging that he was "entering a hornets' nest that Lord Justice Leveson wisely avoided", Mr Jay said that increasingly imaginative solutions were needed to make dissemination of defamatory content online subject to civil law.

In a speech to the Singapore Academy of Law, he said: "One possible way forward is to seek by statutory provision to bring ISPs (internet service providers) within the scope of publishers for the purposes of the law of defamation, even if provision would need to be made for resultant claims to be served out of the jurisdiction."

Anybody who has ever had a run-in with the UK's rather interesting and celebrity-friendly laws of libel and defamation understand that this might be a tad … problematic. Read "problematic" as yet another huge poke in the eye for free speech within British jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the European Commission's High-Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism (Orwell wasn't secretly Belgian, was he?) has issued its final report, A Free and Pluralistic Media to Sustain European Democracy. The document insists "a fair legal regulation is necessary, balancing the new dimension of freedom of expression and the justified rights and interests of other citizens."

The document includes some nice reassurances about press freedom, but always within the context of "European values" and "the public function of the media." The document then goes on to recommend such gems as:

To ensure that all media organisations follow clearly identifiable codes of conduct and editorial lines, and apply the principles of editorial independence, it should be mandatory for them to make them publicly available, including by publication on their website.

and

All EU countries should have independent media councils with a politically and culturally balanced and socially diverse membership. Nominations to them should be transparent, with built-in checks and balances. Such bodies would have competences to investigate complaints, much like a media ombudsman, but would also check that media organisations have published a code of conduct and have revealed ownership details, declarations of conflicts of interest, etc. Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status. The national media councils should follow a set of European-wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values.

Note that "removal of journalistic status" would seem to require licensing of journalists so that they would then have something that let them do their jobs that could be stripped from them by those media councils. That would be among the "real enforcement powers" that media councils could wield against journalists and media entities that piss them off by violating standards and values as defined by bureaucrats.

Overall, it would seem to be a really good time to start writing an elegy for European press freedom — or at least for media outfits on the other side of the Atlantic to consider moving their Web servers to the United States.

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  1. Reasonable restrictions, just like firearms!

  2. I heard, but cannot confirm, that Robert Jay fucked his uncle.

    1. Are you sure? Because I could’ve sworn it was shee…

  3. See? We don’t need a stinky, old Constitution!

    I’m sure our enlightened masters will keep the press freedoms.

  4. All EU countries should have independent media councils with a politically and culturally balanced and socially diverse membership.

    We need a Serb and a cripple! Hurry up and get them in here before the auditor arrives!

    1. “Can’t we just cripple a Serb?”

      “Let me check.”

  5. The leftists won. The free press is no longer needed. They can become the government flunkies they obviously long to be and anyone that doesn’t like it can go screw.

    One people, one voice.

    1. One people, one voice.

      Ein volk, ein stimme!

    2. That’s the wrong order. One voice, one people [operating in harmony with that one guy’s voice, or heads will roll].

      1. That’s the wrong order.

        Check the regulations. Assuming you can pick up the giant book of regulations, old man!

    3. Oh, I’m sure there will still be “robust” debate. It will just be over whether the state should be exhaustive or just in-depth. We’ll have both kinds of music, country AND western.

  6. Is it me, or is Orwell looking a little Palinesque in that picture?

    1. I don’t see any target sights wedged into his mouth.

    2. I don’t think he looks much like Sarah Palin.

      1. Good evening. Tonight on “It’s the Mind”, we examine the phenomenon of d?j? vu. That strange feeling we sometimes get that we’ve lived through something before, that what is happening now has already happened. Tonight on “It’s the Mind” we examine the phenomenon of d?j? vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we’ve. . . . [looks puzzled for a moment] Anyway, tonight on “It’s the Mind” we examine the phenomenon of d?j? vu, that strange. . . .

      2. You sure Libertate wasnt talking about that other Palin, the funny british one….

  7. And if Europe does it…

    1. RUN!!!

  8. Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.

    Ahh, progressive Europe. They’re way ahead, out there.

  9. it’s not just a free press that is necessary, but also an honest one. Somewhere between OT and on: the story claiming Obama has questions about the safety of football. No, The New Republic has a hard-on for the game so it asked POTUS a couple of questions knowing that the man is incapable of not inserting himself into everything. Ergo, Obama has questions about football’s safety.

    How often does shit like that happen and people don’t pay attention? I doubt the White House is doing interviews with political mags in order to talk sports. And yet here we are. The sad reality is that a fair number of American journos have no issue with the idea of some control over their industry because most believe the control would not impact them, just talk radio and fox and breitbart and nat review.

    1. How often does shit like that happen and people don’t pay attention?

      You know, many people don’t give a shit about what the government is doing. There are several reasons:

      1. They don’t care because they’re getting free stuff.
      2. It’s enough work to just get through a day and have a place to live that there isn’t enough energy left.
      3. They know it’s useless to care because government’s gonna do what government’s gonna do.

      1. when you whine about shit but accept it because you’re too busy and you just vote the same folks into office time and again, be honest and just stop bitching.

        Someone unwilling to do something as simple as vote for something different is worse than a sheep.

        1. But those Tea Party guys are loonies! The GOP and the DNC told me so!

        2. Most, if not all, of the people in groups 2 and 3 most likely don’t vote.

        3. Or at least stop voting. A big problem is people who insist on having political opinions even though they can’t be bothered to have a clue what they are talking about.

          1. Well, that’s democracy for you.

            1. But Sgt. Klown Shultz assures me that Prime Ministers and Parliaments are TEH BEST THANG EVAR!

        4. you just vote the same folks into office time and again

          Except that they’re not. If you check you’ll find that most people didn’t vote.

          1. which makes their bitching all the more infuriating.

            1. Why does it infuriate you? You’re not allowed to complain if you don’t vote? Your can’t kvetch by the mob breaking your kneecap if you don’t participate in their Capo di Capo selection ceremony?

      2. You forgot “free stuff”

  10. Such bodies would have competences to investigate complaints, much like a media ombudsman, but would also check that media organisations have published a code of conduct and have revealed ownership details, declarations of conflicts of interest, etc. Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status. The national media councils should follow a set of European-wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values.

    That is what we need. It would never be co-opted by those in power. Never

    1. Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.”

      It seems ridiculous to so many people when we predict these kinds of things years beforehand–they think we’re exaggerating.

      …but then when this stuff really starts happening, it doesn’t seem ridiculous at all. Then people treat it like they knew this was going to happen all along, and it’s somehow a good thing.

      Obama doesn’t want your guns–that’s ridiculous!

      Nobody’s going to jail for failing to buy health insurance! You gotta stop watching Faux News!

      Somehow that all turns into–of course we want your guns! You have no right to them anyway!, and people who don’t buy health insurance are being criminally negligent!

      There’s something to be said for stupid patriotism and dogmatic devotion to the Constitution. It ain’t all pretty, but stupid devotion to some forms of freedom is better than the assault from the left on the very existence of our individual rights–all the time.

      I doubt it even needs to be said, but the Progressive left would love to license journalists.

      1. “removal of journalistic status”

        What the fuck? The fact that they even think that there should be such a thing a a journalistic status that can be removed is fucking terrifying.

        1. Yes

        2. People say it can’t happen here, but it nearly DID happen here! Remember when blogging about a candidate was going to be considered a political contribution, unless you were an approved journalist blogger?

  11. We don’t need those kinds of controls here in the U.S. yet since most of the MSM is already in the hip pocket of the president anyway.

    If they ever do introduce some kind of control system in the U.S., it will probably involve licensing. I’m not sure they’d make you buy a license to watch television (like they do in the U.K.), but requiring television journalists to be licensed?

    Yeah, I could see that.

    1. David Gregory: Licensed to Shill!

  12. We have those types here too:

    This fuckstick is a Republican (from Michigan, so that makes him a Democrat in 35 other states)

    http://www.examiner.com/articl…..r-a-factor

    1. What a worthless douchebag, and even less excusable give his profession.

  13. “(Orwell wasn’t secretly Belgian, was he?”

    Dude, George Orwell wrote a satire on totalitarianism. He wasn’t a totalitarian himself. There’s kind of a difference, sort like calling the Frankenstein monster a “Mary Shelley.”

    1. He wasn’t a totalitarian himself.

      Nope. Nothing totalitarian about socialism. Not a bit.

      1. In The Lion and The Unicorn, Orwell called for a violent socialist revolution in Britain in 1941.

  14. But this is all okay because Europe is a socialist democracy.

    1. ^Thom Hartmann hacked my account!

  15. I’m sure glad we sacrificed hundreds of thousands of young Americans a few decades ago to rescue those Euros from tyranny…

    1. I’m wondering who really won that war.

  16. “It wasn’t a how-to guide, folks”

    Are you sure about that? After reading Orwell’s “Why i write” and his English socialist state with unique English flavor one wonders aside from flowery rhetoric how in actual policy it would be any different then any other fascist state.

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