Monday 22 January 2018

The tyranny of the gutter press

Madam – So at last a mask has slipped, revealing the rather ugly face of vested interest bullying in the media.

I refer to the frank and disquieting opinions expressed by Ruth Dudley Edwards in last Sunday's paper (Sunday Independent, March 24). In her article she suggests that all those who spoke out against the vicious excesses of the Murdoch press and others should have what she describes as "a punitive tattoo" engraved on their foreheads. In the case of Hugh Grant, she would even welcome a circumstance in which such an injury would end his film career. She also believes that those of us who have been on the side of the individual citizen as opposed to the press barons should be drowned out by blasts of noise from discordant trumpets every time we wish to challenge the tyranny of the media.

I am all for the freedom of the press and I can point to many instances in my political career where this has been made manifest. But what about the freedom of individual conscience, the freedom to protest, the freedom to articulate your own ideas? Are all these vital liberties to be done down in the interests of the bully boys and girls of the gutter press? There is a lot of blather about the need to keep a free press but very few people tackle the question of a misleading offensive and sometimes downright mendacious media. I myself was told directly by an editor that what was being done to me during the Presidential election was "payback time" for the work I had done in the Senate on the regulation of the press. In my opinion, rather than further attempts at bullying the likes of Hugh Grant, a more salutatory occupation for those really interested in freedom of expression would be to examine their consciences, protect free speech and protect also the vulnerable.

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