Friday 15 December 2017

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Freedom of information can be a tarnished weapon of truth

We're in an age where any and all news is published, whatever the consequences, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

I may be a hack myself, but I'm as prone as the next person to savage the media for inaccuracy, irresponsibility, vulgarity, unwarranted intrusiveness, sensationalism and various other deplorable failings. Yet I also believe passionately in a free press that stands up to vested interests and tells the truth to power.

Without the scrutiny of curious outsiders, institutions can do what they like. Child abuse in Ireland went unchecked because the Church, politicians and the law made it impossible for investigative journalists to do their job. So of course there were celebrations over the passing in 1997 of the Freedom of Information Act. Henceforward, secrecy would give way to transparency and our world would be a better place.

Well, up to a point.

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