Free Speech: A Given Right.

by Morag Robertson

A few days ago, Labour MP, Ivan Lewis, stood up and suggested restraining the malpractice of journalists with the threat of being ‘struck off’ as a journalist. Social networking sites did not take long to explode with angry comments, as every listener and reader of this speech grabbed their phone or their laptop and blogged furiously with their thoughts on this matter.

Where Ivan Lewis plans on striking people off of however is baffling the nation, sending people into a frenzy of rage at the thought of a state register for journalists. Is Ivan implying the restraint of free speech? Surely not. With the rise of the social networking sites, how and where would you start this list to be ‘struck off’ of? Is that even possible?

With twitter being heavily involved in every news issue lately, it was instantaneously filled with voices screaming their points of view. Darrell Goodliff clearly states his opinion on this subject matter on twitter, “Just in case people are unclear, I will fight with my dying breath to stop state control of the media through a Journalist Register”. And Mark Sparrow has a similar state of mind by posting on twitter, “Labour’s Ivan Lewis wants a state register of journalists. Why not just declare a police state and strangle free speech? Thanks comrade!”

However, Ivan’s words in his speech did not state that he was suggesting a state register of journalists, he merely said that a striking off technique should be considered when journalists use malpractice.

This statement was posted by Ivan Lewis on his twitter account after the angry uprising on social networking sites came to his attention. It seems that Ivan made his speech with the phone hacking scandal in mind, as he said “Journalism is a highly respected profession. Why shouldn’t journos found to have commissioned or engaged in phone hacking be struck off.”. Ivan followed this by saying, yet again on twitter”I said that industry should consider whether gross malpractice should lead to a journo being struck off, and I oppose state oversight of press.”

Ivan Lewis seems to be making the point that just like in other professions, malpractice should be dealt with systematically, in the same way;  no exceptions should be made for journalists.

However, in this day and age, ‘journalism’ is incredibly hard to define. With the incredible range of social media and the general news, it’s impossible to complete any sort of list of who is a journalist. Free speech is a given human right; we are all journalists in some way or form. Whether it’s through facebook, twitter, tumblr, newspapers or any other online blogs; we are the journalists in different forms.


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