June 22, 2009

BAD NEWS FOR DEMOCRACY AND BLOGGERS AS WELL

There must have been mixed feelings at the Times newspaper last week when an organisation that partially bases its brand and reputation on protecting sources' anonymity unmasked an anonymous police blogger. It was the kind of judicial intervention usually visited on the media by the constabulary, not the other way round.

The injunction obtained by Richard Horton against the Times revealing him as the author of the NightJack blog was toppled by "Mr Privacy" Justice Eady. The issues here are pretty nuanced - one set of competing freedom of expression rights rubbing up against another. But the verdict of the web on this occasion had little room for considered argument, with everyone from Jean Seaton, chair of the Orwell Prize, to commenters on its own legal blog criticising the Times. From the outside it looks a bizarre choice of resource allocation on the part of the paper - you spend money on establishing a precedent which is likely to be used against you in the future. It seems flawed both ethically and strategically.

It is natural enough for a newspaper to want to overturn an injunction when it sees one, but in this case what may have seemed like a reasonable case to pursue "in the public interest" has resulted in the closure of a blog and the disciplining of Horton by the force. The public appeared unimpressed by the outcome, and strangely ungrateful that their interests have been nobly protected. As the net result is that they can theoretically no longer publish anonymously if they so wish, they might legitimately be quite annoyed.

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2 comments:

donplaypuks® said...

Surprising that these assaults are coming from UK and Washington!

In time to come, perhaps we will have to look East to India to maintain a smidgin of democracy.

Anyway, check out my new blog on schooldays at http://lunwt.blogspot.com/

masterwordsmith said...

Dear DPP,

To steal a line from Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changing, my friend..

You could be right re the form of democracy being practised. Very sad as madness seems to rule many countries these days.

Wah - got new blog??? Congratulations!!! I will go there after this. Thanks for letting me know about it.

Take care and keep in touch.

Cheers