Striking Off Journalists or Striking Off Our Freedom of Speech?

A doctor is convicted of malpractice. He or she is struck off, never to practice again. A journalist convicted of malpractice. He or she might be sued or fired but is free to work again.

A doctor is convicted of malpractice. He or she could have ruined a person’s life.  A journalist is convicted of malpractice. He or she could have ruined a person’s life.

Unlike Doctors, journalists will rarely cause death or serious health problems by malpractice however both have the power to ruin a person’s life even if, for journalists, this is a little more hypothetical! This seems to be the stance that Shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis is taking on the situation.

 In an attempt to condemn the phone-hacking scandal and the way the coalition handled it, the Labour MP on Wednesday suggested that we put measures in place to allow journalists to be ‘struck-off’ from a register, like doctors are when  they are deemed to have acted inappropriately.

This is all very well following the shocking allegations about journalists that have now come to light, but is this a practical solution? The Government having the ability to control what we say simply crosses out the free-press in Britain. There was no way for us to strike off politicians after the expenses scandal, why should they have the ability to strike us off after the hacking scandal? Please do not think I am in any way agreeing with those journalists who committed those disgusting crimes, I am simply saying that if the government control what the media say then it raises the question of whether we really do have freedom of speech. And the answer to that would be no.

Possibly even more problematic for Labour’s suggestion is the ever-growing culture of ‘Citizen Journalism’ . It is clear that Lewis means professional journalists, those who make a living from the profession. However in an age where everyone who writes a blog is effectively a journalist and unofficial blogs can gather as much of a following than a small newspaper, is it really practical to licence the (stereotyped) 16-year-old girl who wants to talk about clothes or 17-year-old boy who just wants to write about computer games?

It is undeniable that measures must be put in place, and possibly the media do need to be subject to a few more checks and balances, but an in an ever-changing world of social media and freedom of speech, MP’s need to think outside the box and realise that increasingly, we are all journalists.

One Response

  1. Good point. I’m not 100% sure what I think regarding the comments made at the labour conference. I think something should be done, but not a gagging order of sorts.

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