The events of the last week, and the intervention of number 10 and the Metropolitan Police in the last couple of days, surrounding the Sir Kim Darroch leak affair, has got my libertarian hackles up no end.
For Neil Basu to wade in and effectively threaten freedom of press, allegedly at the behest of the government, is very worrying. I would hope that enough heavyweights (including both prospective PMs) weighing in on the matter in support of the press should mean that the issue will die down quickly.
The press should always be free to print what they want. We don’t always have to agree with what they write, and they should always aim to be responsible in their activities, but reporters should be able to take the facts as they see them (accepting that they will never be complete) and draw their own conclusions from them. Combine that with editorial choice, business models, cognitive biases and marketing targets, within the context of a free market, and you should end up with something for everyone. This is as it should be.
The moment the government get involved and try to either suppress reporting to control its output, we’re all in trouble. Filtering events, true or otherwise, and promoting specific narratives, not only shows an arrogance on the part of those trying to control things, but is also an insult to the people they are trying to convince. You might get away with it in totalitarian situation, but it’s much harder and you’re going to look fairly daft in a democracy like ours.
The press should be able to report what they like, when they like. If they get it wrong, and they often do, they usually self-correct as more information comes to light. We all know that any paper should be taken with a pinch of salt. I like to read both the Telegraph and the Guardian most days as I think that somewhere between them, once you filter the biases, you get more to the core of the bigger matters.