Saturday, March 03, 2007

Press Freedom in the UK

There was an interesting news item on the BBC 10 o'clock news last night. The very first headline was that the Beebs had been gagged by the government. It had been banned from reporting a story on the 'cash for honours' inquiry. The attorney general had obtained the injunction after a hearing at the high court yesterday evening.

To those who may not be aware, the current Labour government is being investigated by the police. They are suspected of selling peerages and even appointments to the house of lords, for election campaign loans. This has been quite a big 'hoohah' in the UK, with many of Blair's closest aides being hauled up. Even the Prime Minister has been dragged through the mud by being called up for questioning, as part of the investigations.

The government must know how bad this injunction is going to look, in the eyes of the public. However, the news that the Beebs was about to report must have been extremely damaging. Worse still, was that the story must have been true. Otherwise, the government could just have easily sued the Beebs. Now, it's going to pique the people's curiousity even more.

So, what does an independent press like the BBC do when faced with such a problem? Instead of crying foul and throwing a tantrum, like what some other news channels are wont to do, they did something even nastier, in a very civil British manner. They decided to air a news article on the fact that they had been banned by the government from telling the people the truth.

During the news article, they did even more damage by reporting that 'the BBC is strictly limited in what it can say' and 'our reporting on the cash for honours, is a legitimate matter of public interest'. I think that this reporting probably did as much, or more, damage to the current Labour government than the original news article might have done.

I found this very interesting simply because, no Malaysian news channel would have been able to get away with this kind of stunt. The Beebs is independent from the government as it's main stake holder is the British public. So, if not because it had to obey the law, like any other organisation, it would most certainly have reported on the government. I respect them for that. Go Beebs!

UPDATE: This news has made it onto the major news wires. So, people around the world will be reading about it soon enough.

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