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Leveson: you, the jury ...

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Robin Lustig | 13:50 UK time, Friday, 30 November 2012

Members of the jury:

You have heard what the learned judge, Lord Justice Leveson, has said in his extensive, 2,000-page summing up, having heard the evidence in the case of The People v The Press.

It is now your task to consider your verdict, not, as you would usually do, on the defendant in the dock, but on m'learned friend himself, His Honour Lord Justice Leveson.

Allow me to assist you, before you retire to the jury room to consider what you have heard. For this is a complex, and in some ways, a puzzling case, unlike any which has come before a jury in this court room before.

First, I would suggest, you will want to consider what His Honour said in regard to the general behaviour of some elements of the Press: "There has been a recklessness in prioritising sensational stories, almost irrespective of the harm that the stories may cause and the rights of those who would be affected ..." (Executive Summary, para. 32)

You will recall also, members of the jury, that the learned judge remarked that "when the story is just too big and the public appetite too great, there has been significant and reckless disregard for accuracy ... a cultural tendency within parts of the press vigorously to resist or dismiss complainants almost as a matter of course." (para. 38/9)

I am sure I do not need to remind you what His Honour suggested as a remedy for these disgraceful lapses: an entirely new system of what he called "independent self-regulation", underpinned by new legislation. And you cannot fail to remember his insistence that "this is not, and cannot be characterised as, statutory regulation of the press." (para 73)

Members of the jury, there are two charges brought against the learned judge. First, that in proposing a legislative under-pinning for his new system of independent self-regulation, he is, in the words of the prime minister, Mr Cameron, "crossing a Rubicon", by which I take it he means moving too far from the hitherto hallowed principle that the Press must remain unfetttered and free from improper political pressure.

The second charge is that the learned judge has failed to take sufficient account of the role of the police in considering the truly appalling events surrounding the illegal hacking of voicemail messages, especially of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

In his consideration of the relationship between certain officers and the News of the World newspaper, he concludes: "I have seen no basis for challenging at any stage the integrity of the police, or that of the senior police officers concerned." He adds, however, that there was, in relation to the investigation of the allegations of phone-hacking, "a series of poor decisions, poorly executed." (para 78)

On the issue of corruption, Lord Justice Leveson says: "The Inquiry has not unearthed extensive evidence of police corruption nor is there evidence ... that significant numbers of police officers lack integrity ... The notion, as a matter of established fact, that this may be a widespread problem is not borne out. The scale of the problem needs to be kept in proportion." (para 91)

Members of the jury, I now have to ask you to consider your verdict. On Count One, do you find His Honour Lord Justice Leveson guilty or not guilty of seeking to embark on a dangerous path towards State control of the Press?

On Count Two, do you find him guilty or not guilty of underplaying the role of the police in the events that led to the setting up of his Inquiry?

Finally, so that there may be no possible misunderstanding, I should emphasise that I make no allegations myself. I merely present them to you in the spirit of encouraging an informed and dispassionate discussion of the issues involved.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    You have heard

    At 2k pages, so far I've only heard what I have been served by various tribal media, but OK.

    The People v The Press.
    Seemed mostly to be broadcast vs. print, with The Guardian chipping in, often not with the greatest of accuracy.

    http://digitalpolitico.net/2012/11/30/leveson-ducks-uncomfortable-truth-about-milly-dowler-phone-hacking/
    The key point of the story by The Guardian that shut the News of the World was incorrect.

    And then getting its mates excited.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danhodges/100192335/the-vichy-evening-news-formerly-known-as-the-guardian-has-gone-bonkers-over-leveson/
    ‘And then I turned on the radio and heard Alan Rusbridger on the Today programme.’

    Now, as Dame Judi says in ‘Riddick’… ‘who could have predicted that?’

    Allow me to assist you..

    As only the BBC can.. uniquely? Playing up bits liked; playing down, or out those not so keen on...?

    '..almost irrespective of the harm that the stories may cause and the rights of those who would be affected ..."

    Just ask Lord McAlpine. But that was a different time, and thanks to OFCOM couldn't happen.

    '.. there has been significant and reckless disregard for accuracy ...

    And when that happens institutionally, there are always FoI lawyers and vast fees to pay them.

    '..a cultural tendency ... to resist or dismiss complainants almost as a matter of course."

    Ever encountered the default response from BBC Complaints?

    Here's an interesting way I have seen it described:

    'Stage 1 Response:
    None attached to case – auto-reply email only in History'


    I make no allegations myself. I merely present them in the spirit of encouraging an informed and dispassionate discussion of the issues involved, bearing in mind that too often, the way things get shaped may not always reflect the totality of what needs to be considered, or addressed.

    As to allegations, there was an interesting tweet recently:

    Jack of Kent ‏@DavidAllenGreen
    Using "allegedly" offers no defence to a libel claim. It is an urban myth. Can be just as actionable. #CarefulNow

  • Comment number 2.

     
    "It is an urban myth."

    Allegedly...

  • Comment number 3.

    In matters myth, I defer, as always, to the world of TV advertising... especially that Muller commercial for a yoghurt which is Greek (German name, based in Shropshire... very EU).... allegedly.

  • Comment number 4.

    First may I say that I admire your imagination in setting up your article in the way that you have. It's interesting and imaginative. Thank-you.
    The progressive-left media persist in acting as propaganda outlets for the UK, US-NATO destabilization of countries, thus placating a politically conscious audience that might otherwise be mobilized against acts of imperialism and violence. The historical record suggests Syria is not the first time “Progressive publicists” were used to sell a war. The media cannot be trusted. It must not exist to propagate war, but to report facts.
    I think in the greater scheme of things phone-hacking and other vile pursuits to attain news is but a minor misbehavior of the Press, maybe a simple distraction from the really vile reportage that is occurring around war, revolution and regime change - where thousands are dying.
    This means information, statistics, videos from these sources isn’t necessarily pure news; they are too often in reality - sales pitch, PR - mostly non-vetted.
    Goodman and similar Left media are engaging and convincing precisely because of their posturing against corporate media control, economic exploitation and war mongering. Occupying the outer contours of National Public Radio’s milquetoast programming, Democracy Now’s self-described “independent” reportage takes on a certain aura of authenticity among its supporters—mainly progressives with concerns for social justice and human rights.

    Alongside Creel’s recollections, out of their experiences in the CPI the liberal-minded Lippmann and Bernays wrote of their overall contempt for what they understood as a malleable and hopelessly ill-informed public that could not be trusted with serious decision-making. In their view, public opinion had to be created by an “organized intelligence” of technocrats (Lippmann) or “engineered” by “an invisible government” (Bernays), with the average citizen relegated to the role of idle false-news absorber.
    So therefore, I concur with Leveson result: There is a badly, desperately needed need for an Independent Review Process - with teeth.
    The police are not the issue, the Government misbehavior and Press complicity - that is the issue.

  • Comment number 5.

    Again, I find myself agreeing with Bluesberry.

    BBC employees (who consider themselves to have a grander status) seek to lead and "educate" with "narratives" instead of news reports.

    In former times, the print press used the Op-Ed page for such and ethical editors gave priority to letters which challenged the paper's position.

    Today, the "educational" mission is implemented so as to propagandize. Democratic principle thus fails as the public is misinformed.

    How does one legislate ethics? What are ethics in a world permeated by advertising and psych-ops?

  • Comment number 6.

    So advertising is undemocratic and unethical and all we have to do is enhance the techniques for distinguishing between fact and opinion.

  • Comment number 7.

    @6 not "all", but distinguishing between fact and opinion would be a great start! Is the BBC capable of doing so?

    How does one legislate ethics? What are ethics in a world permeated by advertising and psych-ops?

  • Comment number 8.

    Distinguishing between fact and opinion might be as difficult as distinguishing between ethical and unethical advertising.

  • Comment number 9.

    '7. madmaxtheprof9 wrote:
    ..but distinguishing between fact and opinion would be a great start! Is the BBC capable of doing so?'


    Interesting question, as I read this...

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danhodges/100192445/ed-milibands-political-immaturity-over-leveson-is-going-to-cost-him-and-his-party-dearly/

    "without even having read the full report, he called for its implementation in its entirety"

    This would be in complement to the BBC, who seems to have gone beyond a 'position' and appears to be actively lobbying, playing up silly e-petitions as 'news', which really is not their remit, surely?

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2012/12/the-british-press-is-still-trapped-in-a-fight-for-survival/

    'The BBC, which had signed an anti-Murdoch petition when the Dirty Digger looked like he wanted to apply rocket boosters on BSkyB, was leading last night’s news bulletins on a spurious “petition”from Hacked Off with 25,000 signatures demanding (as Ed Miliband does) the full implementation of the Leveson Report.'

    However, in casualness to facts where needed, Mr. Miliband could always end up as a Newsnight Producer or even BBC DG, so the fit is already good.

  • Comment number 10.

    So there's some consensus for media to stick to facts or make it clear where fact ends and opinion begins.

    But media needs to report opinions from people. Should the media only report opinions that are factually correct? Or is reporting opinion ok if it accurately reflects the opinion of a wider population, even if it's factually incorrect?

    fact/opinion?
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate and counter-productive"

  • Comment number 11.

    I think many things containing a metaphorical description can be dismissed as a non-facts.

  • Comment number 12.

    Let´s face it --the quality of the British newspapers has been nothing to ´write home about´.

    International news has always been given a ´back seat´in daily newspapers. What is now being discussed are only ´ethical´rules for the ´dumbing down´process.

    --also very important --if little else exists.

  • Comment number 13.

    10. At 20:21 2nd Dec 2012, _marko

    But media needs to report opinions from people. Should the media only report opinions that are factually correct? Or is reporting opinion ok if it accurately reflects the opinion of a wider population, even if it's factually incorrect?


    Rather depends on who, from which media, decide which people's opinions 'we' get served.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01p4n0f/Question_Time_29_11_2012/

    Skip to around 45'50"

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17154440

    'Your response will be completely confidential, but it will enable us to invite a balanced cross-section of people.'

    There appears to be one heck of an opportunity to filter in, or out, whatever 'cross-section' a very small band fancies based on telling them what they want to hear.

    Speaking for or to the nation is all well and good, but when what the nation gets to hear is predetermined it rather smacks of propaganda.

    Still, Lords Hall and Patten can ensure the UK public are well represented, and OFCOM can ensure nothing like Newsnight can ever hap... oh.

  • Comment number 14.

    On matters of 'fact', the mainstream BBC also seems keen to hear what it wants, and pass it on...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20576354

    “Campaign group Hacked Off, which represents people who have been victims of press intrusion, is running a petition for Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations to be implemented in full. It has attracted more than 100,000 signatures since Friday.”

    Via the internet, it appears there may be context not deemed so necessary to discover, or provide...

    http://order-order.com/2012/12/03/labour-using-millie-dowler-to-harvest-election-data/

    '“where you can sign up as many times as you like, with as many fake names and watch the supporter count grow”

    Frankly, given a choice between the OFCOM-overseen truth and accuracy of the BBC and Guardian alone, vs. the context I still can get from the internet... I'm erring not in favour of handing the keys to the free speech to these guys and their political puppets quite yet.

  • Comment number 15.

    So, reporting opinion is ok if it accurately reflects the opinion of a wider population even if it's factually incorrect. Fine. So just need to be able to decide the composition of the wider population or the consistent criteria for selection of this population.

    People can often agree on some facts which can be verified. People can often agree on some correctly reported opinions which can be verified, even if the opinions themselves aren't factually accurate.

    So in the case of the US election this means that media would have to reflect US opinion or British opinion or global opinion or a weighted mixture of all three to be seen as valid?

  • Comment number 16.

    Being a historian, I never believe what is stated in any medium.

    Moreover do not I have any faith in the absolute security of any communications I send.

    Not being stupid I can usually distinguish opinion from a claim to be factual since I usually treat statements of fact as opinions in the first instance.

    If I was serious about this, the first thing I would do is to check Robin's quotations and their context. Until then I would say 'Robin states' (source).

  • Comment number 17.

    '15. At 19:54 3rd Dec 2012, _marko wrote:
    So, reporting opinion is ok if...


    Being just a bloke wot posts and hence could be anyone (even the Pope now) I have found that stuff that starts with 'So...' and goes on to outline a singular belief all-inclusively, can often be a person projecting beyond themselves onto others.

    Hence not so fine from this location.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ok. I thought it was necessary to define the general population before being able to say whether something was representative or not. Is this projection valid?

  • Comment number 19.

    I always remember what used to be on the NYT masthead "Oh, What Fools these mortals be" and despair.

    The essence, as I see it, is the intention rather than the act.

    If the intention is to polemicize, then the individual should be removed from the BBC.

  • Comment number 20.

    #19 madmax

    "If the intention is to polemicize, then the individual should be removed from the BBC."

    --especially when the culprit gives gives both (all) sides of the argument ?

    I am all for ´informed opinions´ to assist my interpretation of events -- and would agree with your statement if the (biased) reporting and opinions offered nothing more than simple un-educated prejudice.

    #16 cping500´s statement--

    "Being a historian, I never believe what is stated in any medium."

    -- Does cause me some problems --for what is history of societies ?

    If the news from them fits into a picture of their (proven, shown, accepted ?) development over decades or centuries -- what do historians do otherwise ?

  • Comment number 21.

    Speaking of well-defined general populations.. or is it populations of generals... this sprung to mind...

    http://news.yahoo.com/tanks-outside-egypt-presidential-palace-streets-calm-074211411.html

    Oddly, not so much elsewhere, yet...

  • Comment number 22.

    The tragedy of again two children losing their mother un-necessarily (Nurse Jacintha) must bring back terrible memories to both William and Harry.

    It would be honorable if they both requested to be at her funeral.

    ´Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,´ (Kipling)

  • Comment number 23.

    'The tragedy of again two children losing their mother un-necessarily '

    Indeed.

    What does seem extraordinary is that, in this era of 'questions will be asked', today almost every MSM print or broadcast has carried a press release from this Australian radio station to the effect that they tried to call the victims of the prank for permission and... actually, that's all they wrote.

    No one yet has asked for proof these calls were made or what happened to them. Given vast international interest in small private hospital, making a call is not proof of much other than retroactive wishful hoping it was taken.

    We are also so far spared the usual reams of 'expert' 'analysis' such things usually garner on the rules and guidelines and even legalities, backed up with an obligatory £100kpa professional hand wringer to demand they be given funds to get involved... somehow.

    Some in the wagon-circling carousel also seem to think the focus is best on the poor woman's employers.

    I grant that media PR protocols seem either to have been poor or ignored, but this smacks of blaming the IDF for not stopping enough 'fireworks' like this one - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20656364 (After the cute kid whose parents Rotherham Council would be proud) - whilst side-stepping (how is most of the BBC board anyway?) who took the decision to launch...

  • Comment number 24.

    I also not that the Newsnight twitter and FaceBook feeds chart its ongoing descent into irrelevance, while the BBC 'The Editors' blog celebrates a month without any BBC Editor having anything on their minds. Uniquely.

 

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