Media

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

Rules show how not to win friends and influence people

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/05/2024 - 4:54am in

Tags 

Asia, Media, Politics

The ABC is running jolly programmes on and for the Pacific as part of a government policy to counter Chinese influence. But in a closer, bigger and more important region already eyed by Beijing the national broadcaster and its paymaster offer indifference and ignorance. Or is that arrogance? The flagship of the international service ABC Continue reading »

What We Owe Gaza’s Journalists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/05/2024 - 3:24am in

War rages on in the months since Hamas’ assault against Israel and its ongoing retaliatory punishment of the blockaded Gaza Strip. It has been agonizing to witness. As of May, Israeli military actions are estimated to have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, the majority of them women and children. Almost the entire population of Gaza has been displaced from their homes. A quarter of the…

Source

Conservative Politicians and Press ‘Driving Spike’ in Disinformation on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and 15-Minute Cities, Report Finds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 9:01am in

Cases of online disinformation and conspiracy theories about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) increased fivefold from 2022 to 2023 – a problem exacerbated by the Government’s hostile rhetoric about the traffic-easing schemes, according to a new report by think tank Demos. 

The increase in disinformation has led to heightened community divisions, with a swathe of cases of infrastructure damage, and even death threats against local councillors during the past few years.

The study paints a portrait of a "failed policy introduction" and fierce local splits over the issue, partly driven by cynical media coverage and electioneering from right-wing figures.

In 2020, the Government instructed councils across the country to implement LTNs “swiftly”. However, last July – amid widespread disinformation, accusations of undemocratic governance and death threats directed at councillors – Rishi Sunak ordered a formal review of the schemes.

Following this announcement, the Conservative Party continued to double-down on an anti-LTN stance – and went further. 

The report points to media outlets such as the Mail on Sunday running segments including: "How 15-minute cities could be coming to the UK" – linking Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, which are designed to reduce rat-runs through residential areas, to conspiracy theories about supposed Government plots to stop people leaving their local areas. 

In practice, the idea of a '15-minute city’ is a simple one: planning laws for urban areas should encourage density and good public transport to make them easily accessible and walkable. In the same Mail piece published last March, the newspaper stated that the residents who vandalised the LTN planters in Rochdale "launched a rebellion".

The story of the 'Rochdale fire' was also latched onto by hard-right figures. An unknown member of the public set fire to several planters hours after they had been installed to
restrict traffic on 25 March 2023. In the next couple of days, anti-LTN activists and a journalist from GB News, Martin Daubney, expressed support for the act of arson online, declaring it a "revolutionary spirit". He has previously criticised non-violent activists such as Just Stop Oil for being "reckless".

Social media analysis conducted for the report found that levels of LTN-related disinformation with significant reach and engagement doubled from 2022 to 2023.

Some Conservative figures have latched onto the online anger.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper, for instance, gave a speech stating that he would end “the mis-use of so-called 15-minute cities” and “ensure no government money” funds LTNs in the future. It was seen as a dog-whistle to the fraction of voters who believe they are part of a sinister plot. 

Just last week, Women’s Minister Maria Caulfield faced calls to apologise for 'dishonest' claims that residents would have to pay road charges to drive more than 15-minutes from their home, in an election campaign leaflet. Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP told Yahoo News that she was “spreading baseless claims” and “misleading the public to try to save her own job".

Stark Findings

Analysis of the most popular social media posts on the subject between 2022 and 2023 reveals that the proportion classed as 'disinformation’ – including conspiracy theories – rose from 5% to 28% year-on-year, the report by the cross-party think tank Demos and the Public Interest News Foundation found. 

In parallel, the proportion of the same posts that could be classified as anti-LTN rose from 48% in 2022 to 79% in 2023.

Demos says that the stark rise in disinformation came in the year that “Rishi Sunak attacked councils for the introduction of the policy his Government had previously championed”.

There were also concerns that councils failed to properly engage and consult communities as the Government funding was dependent on fast implementation of the schemes. Direct attacks on the infrastructure such as planters, cameras and bollards have followed, as well as death threats against local councillors, the study found. 

The report – 'Driving Disinformation: Democratic deficits, disinformation and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ – involved researchers analyse more than half a million social media posts, with interviews of residents, local politicians and journalists in three LTN hotspots. 

It reveals that: 

  • Levels of LTN-related online ‘disinformation’ with significant engagement exploded between 2022 and 2023, with the proportion classified as anti-LTN rising from 48% to 79% in 2023. 
  • Where this disinformation had previously been blamed for the vicious local rows over LTNs, interviews with those at the heart of the local rows revealed that weaknesses in local democracy, the lack of quality local journalism, and national politicians’ interventions all worsened community tensions. 
  • Councils failed to properly engage or consult residents in what the researchers call a growing “democratic chasm” between communities and their local elected officials.
  • The decimation of news ecosystems at a local level, as well as increases in the harassment of journalists, reduced capacity for local accountability and factual information available at a local level, with residents turning to the “cesspit” of Facebook for information.
  • National politicians adopted language used in disinformation campaigns, including referring to the 15-minute city conspiracy theory and labelling supporters of LTNs “anti-motorist”. 
  • Levels of LTN-related online ‘disinformation’ with significant engagement exploded between 2022 and 2023, with the proportion classified as anti-LTN rising from 48% to 79% in 2023. 
  • Where this disinformation had previously been blamed for the vicious local rows over LTNs, interviews with those at the heart of the local rows revealed that weaknesses in local democracy, the lack of quality local journalism, and national politicians’ interventions all worsened community tensions. 
  • Councils failed to properly engage or consult residents in what the researchers call a growing “democratic chasm” between communities and their local elected officials.
  • The decimation of news ecosystems at a local level, as well as increases in the harassment of journalists, reduced capacity for local accountability and factual information available at a local level, with residents turning to the “cesspit” of Facebook for information.
  • National politicians adopted language used in disinformation campaigns, including referring to the 15-minute city conspiracy theory and labelling supporters of LTNs “anti-motorist”. 
  • On Lyham Road in Lambeth, a street sign is vandalised with black spray paint in October 2023, on a road with traffic-calming measures. Photo: Anna Watson/Alamy

    Residents in Oxford, Enfield and Rochdale, where the research was focused, had previously complained of consultations which were poorly advertised, mistargeted and inaccessible for residents without digital access, resulting in the exclusion of vulnerable communities. 

    There was also concern about how councils had interpreted evidence of the success of local trial schemes and the results of consultations, leading to accusations of deceit and citizens describing the overall processes as “undemocratic”.

    The report said disinformation narratives emerged around the schemes being “totalitarian” and “authoritarian”, and that these encouraged other extreme positions, including the burning of LTN barriers. 

    A Department for Transport spokesperson told Byline Times: “Traffic schemes must work for everyone in the area and should have local engagement and community buy-in before being implemented, which has not been the case for a number of LTNs. 

    “Through our Plan for Drivers, we’re strengthening statutory guidance to ensure councils have the support of local residents, businesses and emergency services before implementing any new LTN schemes.”

    The Government has threatened to take over council roads or pull local authority funding if they "fail to deliver sensible road schemes", using powers from the Traffic Management Act.

    Officials pointed to the Transport Secretary setting out his opposition to conspiracy theories around so-called ‘15-minute cities’, on Times Radio and during a statement in Parliament on October 16.

    Lights Ahead

    The report makes three main recommendations: 

  • A new anti-disinformation standard in public life, ensuring politicians educate themselves on narratives that weaken relationships with democratic institutions and the rule of law before deploying them in their own messaging. 
  • A new ‘Local Civic Accord’ to restore trust in local democracy in local communities, including the creation of a council ‘local democracy’ strategy and a set of principles that are published and transparent.
  • A central government funding package to stimulate a new era of vibrant local news, starting at £50 million per year administered via Local News Funds.
  • A new anti-disinformation standard in public life, ensuring politicians educate themselves on narratives that weaken relationships with democratic institutions and the rule of law before deploying them in their own messaging. 
  • A new ‘Local Civic Accord’ to restore trust in local democracy in local communities, including the creation of a council ‘local democracy’ strategy and a set of principles that are published and transparent.
  • A central government funding package to stimulate a new era of vibrant local news, starting at £50 million per year administered via Local News Funds.
  • Hannah Perry, lead researcher at Demos’ Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, said there were shortcomings with the pandemic-era schemes. But "instead of working to bring a sense of calm, the government performed a screeching U-turn, in both policy and rhetoric, and ultimately fed the public backlash".

    Demos’ analysis "shows how this pivot coincided with the spike in LTN-related disinformation," she added.

    “It is absolutely essential that lessons are learned and that we radically transform how democracy takes place locally," Perry said. "There is a worsening democratic chasm between councils and communities."

    The think tank is calling for extra local participation so councillors work "in partnership" with communities.

    Jonathan Heawood, executive eirector of the Public Interest News Foundation, which backed the report, said: "Local journalists are keen to cover important issues such as LTNs, but we’ve found that they’re being held back by public abuse, online harassment and lack of investment in original reporting. 

    “Whether they are for or against LTNs, the public are wary of journalism that sensationalises their arguments to create clickbait or treats them as conspiracy theorists. By contrast, they respect journalists who are rooted in the communities they serve, and who strive to present a rounded and objective view of the complex LTN debate.” 

    He added that new Local News Funds across the UK, funded by dormant bank assets, could revitalise local news and strengthen local democracy.

    If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

    The bleak picture of Australian politics: this is how we change

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 4:59am in

    We are confronting a deep structural crisis in our society. We have confused the idea of democracy with the institutions of political parties and representative democracies. The major parties have become structures representing economic and security elites to which only second rate personalities flock, incapable of navigating the huge challenges we face globally. Meanwhile, the Continue reading »

    UK’s legal process a form of ‘psychological torture’, as Assange battles US

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 4:52am in

    John Shipton has been in London, observing his son Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to the United States. The UK High Court had granted Assange’s Defence three grounds of appeal. The first one was that Assange could be exposed to the death penalty in the United States and the US hadn’t given any assurances that Continue reading »

    The Spectacle of Impunity: Phone-Hacking Cover-Up Claims Cross the Atlantic

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 9:43pm in

    This article was first published in the June 2024 print edition of Byline Times

    Subscribe now

    It’s nearly exactly 10 years since I sat in the hushed court 12 of the Old Bailey to hear the jury forewoman read out the verdicts in the eight-month-long phone-hacking trial of Rebekah Brooks, then CEO of News International, on charges of conspiracy to hack phones and pay public officials for stories, and – along with her assistant Cheryl Carter, head of security Mark Hanna, and her husband, Charlie Brooks – charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. All were found not guilty.

    The verdict felt momentous.

    An estimated £100 million had been spent on the legal teams, police ­investigations, and court costs – more than 70% of that privately by Rupert Murdoch. I’d also been told that, if senior News International executives had been convicted, the police and Crown Prosecution Service were considering ­corporate charges against the company and its ‘controlling mind’. However, all that was swept away by the verdicts.

    Minutes later, Brooks’ Deputy Editor at the by then defunct News of the World, and close companion, Andy Coulson, was found guilty of conspiracy to intercept voicemails.

    The majority of the other Murdoch journalists in Coulson’s position, with such clear evidence against them, had pleaded guilty before the trial began. But by staying in the trial, Coulson had helped Brooks – the strength of the case against him, made that against her seem ­comparatively weak and more inferential.

    Coulson had gone from the News of the World to Downing Street, where he was David Cameron’s head of communications at No 10. Minutes later, the then Prime Minister had to answer questions in the House of Commons from the then Labour Leader Ed Miliband. Cameron said he had given Coulson a “second chance” and regretted it.

    It could have been a defining moment.

    Boris Johnson, Tony Gallagher, and Rebekah Brooks at the 2020 The Sun Military Awards 2020. Photo: PA

    The trial, and the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press – launched following the full exposure of the phone-hacking scandal by the Guardian in 2011 – had unleashed a torrent of information about the ‘merry-go-round’ of clandestine social contacts between senior news editors and newspaper proprietors and top politicians: Rupert Murdoch meeting prospective British Prime Ministers as if he were the ultimate power in the land, and then being invited through the back door to Downing Street when they succeeded, as if in benediction.

    It was as if a light had suddenly been turned on in a dark room.

    We saw Brooks herself partying with Tony Blair and David Blunkett, and ­enjoying ‘country dinners’ and horse-­riding trips with her Oxfordshire ­neighbour David Cameron. We glimpsed the plush interiors of an elite political-media class that manipulated the public through a series of back-door deals and revolving-door appointments.

    But then the light turned off and we were in the dark again.

    The Restoration

    At the time of the phone-hacking trial verdicts in 2014, it would have been fair comment to suggest that, though Rebekah Brooks was found innocent of several criminal charges, she was guilty of being one of the most incompetent editors and CEOs in recent history – somehow not noticing what the lead prosecutor called the “criminal enterprise” ­operating beneath her.

    People speculated that she would have to find another career. So it was almost as great a shock that, within a year, Brooks was back in her old job as head of the now-rebranded News UK, and one of the most influential figures in British media.

    And that is how the spectacle of ­impunity became embedded in our lives.

    Thanks to a decade of dogged and detailed civil litigation since, we now know much more about the things the media wasn’t punished for.

    News UK had started claiming that phone-hacking was the product of a ‘rogue reporter’ and then, by shutting the News of the World, suggesting that it was a ‘rogue’ newspaper – and the criminal news-­gathering operation had nothing to do with Murdoch’s flagship daily tabloid The Sun, which Brooks also edited.

    This turned out to be bunk.

    More than 1,600 privacy cases have been settled by the company, many of them claims against The Sun, and News UK has paid out about £1 billion to date. Nor was ‘unlawful information-gathering’ limited to voicemail interception. Many of the settled claims involve blagging, theft, landline phone-tapping, surveillance, and unlawful access to private medical and financial records.

    On the corporate scale, the evidence of systematic cover-up has only increased during the last decade. My live tweets from the Old Bailey were the basis of ­lawyers seeking disclosure about News UK’s ‘email deletion policy’ (clever Murdoch lawyers tried to rename this their ‘email retention policy’) and it now appears, according to a ‘concealment and destruction’ claim, that the company destroyed vital evidence every time it was asked to preserve it. Some 31 million emails were deleted as civil and criminal cases loomed.

    The journalist Nick Davies, who first reported the phone-hacking scandal in the Guardian in 2009, has come out of retirement to dig deeper into the new evidence lodged in these civil claims for Prospect magazine, now edited by his former Guardian Editor, Alan Rusbridger. He reports on the concerted cover-up by News UK, and how journalists or investigators who might have blown the whistle were rewarded with jobs, or cash payments, and required to sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements).

    Davies reveals that it was not only emails that went missing.

    Following Brooks’ arrest in July 2011, 125 items were seized by the police and placed in a secure area at the ­company’s Wapping HQ under the supervision of two Murdoch executives, Simon Greenberg and Will Lewis. When ­detectives returned to complete a detailed search of all the equipment, they ­discovered only 117 items remained. Eight filing cabinets seized from the offices of the Editor and the Managing Editor had been removed. They have never been recovered.

    But the sense of lawlessness and ­impunity goes further.

    Escalation to Espionage

    In an account that sounds more like the actions of the East German Stasi secret police, Davies suggests that News UK continued its unlawful news-gathering even as Parliament was investigating it – and that it was using criminal methods to hack the phones of MPs, not for tittle-­tattle or tabloid sleaze, but for “political and commercial espionage”.

    From the payments and phone logs ­disclosed by News UK to the civil ­claimants, Davies reports that News UK “employed numerous private investigators to hack private individuals, and also MPs – including Cabinet ministers”. These criminal methods were used to target politicians of every rank including the Attorney General, Business Secretary, and up to the Chancellor, and Prime Minister.

    More than 1,500 suspicious calls from the generic number of Murdoch’s Wapping HQ targeted 16 Liberal Democrat MPs and many MPs from other parties. There were suspicious calls to Dominic Grieve, then Attorney General, when as Director of Public Prosecutions he was considering possible prosecutions against journalists.

    Five members of the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee – perceived to be hostile to Murdoch’s commercial interests – received hundreds of “inexplicable” calls.

    One MP who was hacked told the High Court that the pattern of behaviour was a “cynical and outrageous attempt to ­subvert the legitimate process of ­parliamentary scrutiny”.

    Both as Chancellor and then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown was targeted 24 times from the Wapping “hub”. He is now considering joining the civil ­claimants against News UK and has written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley requesting a meeting as a precursor to a new “criminal ­investigation” into these allegations of espionage. He is also asking the police to look at the ­corporate cover-up at News UK.

    Whether the police will reopen its ­investigations remains unclear. There is a civil trial against News UK scheduled for next year.

    In the meantime, this spectacle of ­impunity of the last decade has served as a stern lesson to the entire political-media class: if they can lie and cover-up vehemently and shamelessly enough, they can get away with it.

    It’s not just Rebekah Brooks. For many prominent parties in the phone-hacking scandal, it seems to have helped rather than hindered their careers.

    Will Lewis, the News Corp ­executive who should have been overseeing the disclosures to the police, was recently elevated to the role of CEO at The Washington Post – the newspaper once famed for exposing Richard Nixon’s Watergate cover-up with the fearless reporting team of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

    Former Sun Editor Tony Gallagher, now Editor of The Times, faces civil claims of ‘unlawful information-­gathering’ for ­allegedly commissioning private ­investigators during his time at the Daily Mail as a senior editor.

    So too, does Victoria Newton, now Editor of The Sun.

    Piers Morgan, who a judge last year concluded ‘must have known’ about phone-hacking when he was Editor of the Mirror, was given a reported £15 million a year three-year contract by Murdoch as a host on Talk TV. No bad deed goes unrewarded.

    And it’s not just the media figures.

    The example of impunity embodied by these press luminaries shines out over the entire political landscape and goes a long way to explaining the forces underlying many of the disasters of the last decade.

    The Rot Spreads

    It is surely no accident that the media figures and newspapers involved in ­covering up the ‘dark arts’ of Fleet Street were key players in the lies, dirty data, and electoral dark arts of the EU Referendum campaign in 2016.

    Nearly all of these papers pushed the propaganda and disinformation of the official Vote Leave campaign, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, or its unofficial rival Leave.EU led by Nigel Farage. The Sun even registered itself as a campaigning organisation with the Electoral Commission in its fervent ­support for a leave vote in the referendum.

    The owners of the Telegraph, having previously been fined for sharing readership data with the Conservative Party during the 2015 General Election, were invited to meetings with the infamous Cambridge Analytica data harvesting company and Leave.EU.

    After David Cameron resigned in the wake of the shock result, his successor Theresa May became the next focus of the emboldened political-media class. She was pressured into dropping the overdue second part of the Leveson Inquiry, into the relationships between journalists and the police, which could only take place after the criminal cases had concluded.

    Sunday Times columnist Michael Gove and former Telegraph columnist and Spectator Editor Boris Johnson on the Vote Leave campaign bus in Lancashire, during the 2016 EU Referendum campaign. Photo: PA

    Her then Culture Secretary Matt Hancock suggested to the House of Commons that Lord Justice Leveson ­himself did not want part two of the inquiry to go ahead – when in fact he had said no such thing, merely that he could not be the presiding judge.

    In 2018, when Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer revealed massive data harvesting and misuse, unlawful electoral overspends by Vote Leave, and a riot of meetings between Russians and Leave.EU, these same newspapers did their best to mock or minimise them.
    And so the rot spread from Fleet Street to Westminster, undermining all of the norms of political life, both written and unwritten.

    The same political-media class went on to topple May and foist Boris Johnson (who called phone-hacking “left-wing codswallop”) on the country.

    They applauded his unlawful prorogation of Parliament (the Mail branded the Supreme Court judges who ruled on it ‘enemies of the people’) and his hard exit from the EU. They lauded his handling of the pandemic as ‘following the ­science’ (when Johnson was in fact resisting it).

    And, for two years, they ignored the ­multiple breaches of the Ministerial Code, the conflicts of interests with hedge fund donors, and the billions wasted in crony Covid contracts through a ‘VIP’ lane.

    During this time, the newspaper cartel benefited from what Johnson’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings referred to as “bungs” that were “dressed up as COVID relief” – hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies from the Government in the form of pandemic adverts and VAT relief, as circulation figures dropped during the early days of the crisis.

    The rot has not stopped. The impunity lives on.

    When Johnson’s self-serving lies and complete lack of standards became too much, the Mail, Telegraph and The Sun boosted his even worse replacement, Liz Truss, whose short tenure in Downing Street caused a run on gilt-edged securities, a near collapse of pension funds, and a massive hike in interest rates.

    But both Johnson and Truss are regularly still heralded as ‘true Conservatives’; their historically bankrupt ideas paraded in the pages of the right-wing papers as worthy of our attention. Their past mistakes and misdemeanours papered-over by a press that has too many mistakes and misdemeanours of its own to know the difference.

    Who is really ‘blackmailing’ whom? Who is really the client and who is the provider? Or have media and politics so merged that they have become a single entity, corrupting both representative ­politics and the politics of representation?

    As we head towards a general ­election, expect this spectacle of impunity to ­intensify and accelerate. Both politicians and the media are like a couple in a danse macabre, locked in an embrace of ­complicity and guilt they cannot escape.

    Until the music stops.

    Beyond Contempt, Peter Jukes’ account of the phone-hacking trial, is published by Canbury Press

    US in high-risk legal gamble as court grants Assange leave to appeal extradition

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 4:54am in

    The US is playing a high-risk legal game in refusing to fold its tent and walk away from the prosecution of Australian citizen Julian Assange for exposing US war crimes. A few weeks ago US President Joe Biden told reporters he was ‘considering’ Australia’s request to end the pursuit of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Continue reading »

    Are Albanese and Rowland afraid of Murdoch or are they in his pocket?

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 4:53am in

    Knowing with any degree of certainty what motivates the behaviour and decision making of political leaders whose skill set is focused on creating public perceptions, is problematic. Accordingly, it’s prudent to look less at what they say and more at what they do or don’t do. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland Continue reading »

    The slow-motion execution of Julian Assange continues

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 4:50am in

    The ruling by the High Court in London permitting Julian Assange to appeal his extradition order leaves him languishing in precarious health in a high-security prison. That is the point. The decision by the High Court in London to grant Julian Assange the right to appeal the order to extradite him to the United States Continue reading »

    Julian Assange’s Wife Urges Joe Biden to Drop Pursuit of Husband as he Wins Right to Appeal US Extradition

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 10:11pm in

    Julian Assange on Monday won the right to appeal against extradition to the US, where he faces charges under the Espionage Act, but he today remains behind bars at London's Belmarsh prison where he is expected to spend several months waiting for his next court date.

    The WikiLeaks founder was granted leave to appeal the UK’s decision in 2021 to approve his extradition to the United States, where he faces charges for publishing classified military files and diplomatic cables revealing alleged war crimes perpetrated by American military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

    A decision was deferred in March with judges ruling that Assange could bring an appeal if the US could not offer a range of human rights-based assurances.

    If Assange's next appeal fails, the 52-year-old could take his fight to the UK Supreme Court or seek an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.

    He will remain detained at the Category A men's prison, alongside some of the UK's worst offenders – including Wayne Couzens and Michael Adebolajo – while he awaits an appeal hearing. He has been held at the prison, without trial, for more than five years and is permitted limited contact with his wife, Stella Assange, and their two children. 

    Stella Assange addresses her husband's supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, in February. Photo: Ron Fassbender/Alamy

    Kristinn Hrafnsson, Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, said after the ruling this week that there was “finally a glimmer of hope” for Assange, the Guardian reported, noting that his lawyers would now decide if they also wanted to press for him to be released on bail. Assange has previously been denied bail on the grounds that he is a flight risk.

    Stella Assange called on US President Joe Biden to "do the right thing" and drop the legal pursuit of her husband – something that he might not be able to do after November 2024 if Donald Trump is re-elected.

    The human rights lawyer branded the case against her partner "offensive" and, while she was relieved at Monday's decision, questioned "how long can this go on for?"

    "Julian needs to be freed,” she said – sharing that their children's memories of their father are all "in the visiting hall of Belmarsh prison".

    The Australian was arrested in April 2019 at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had been staying since 2012, having sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation – announced in August 2010 – that was later dropped. He has been fighting for his freedom ever since.

    Simon Crowther, a legal advisor at Amnesty International, said the High Court's decision was a “rare piece of positive news" for Assange and defenders of press freedom, adding that the court had "rightly concluded that, if extradited to the USA, Assange will be at risk of serious abuse, including prolonged solitary confinement, which would violate the prohibition on torture or other ill-treatment”.

    The assurances earlier sought were that, if Assange was extradited, the US would not impose the death penalty; that it would allow him to rely on the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects free speech; and that he would not be prejudiced at trial or sentencing because of his nationality.

    The Problem With Diplomatic Assurances

    The use of diplomatic assurances in extradition cases has long been criticised by human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as there is no guarantee they will be honoured.

    A Human Rights Watch report on the issue concludes: “The growing weight of evidence and international expert opinion indicates that diplomatic assurances cannot protect people at risk of torture from such treatment.”  

    Rebecca Vincent, director of campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, said: Even if these assurances are respected in practice – and again, there’s no guarantee that they will be – we have serious concerns about the very charges against Julian Assange...noting that the Espionage Act itself lacks a public interest defence so even if these assurances are met, we don’t believe that Julian Assange or anyone accused in this way could have a fair trial.”

    Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange at the High Court on Monday, accepted the US’ assurance that he would not face the death penalty if extradited. However, he raised serious concerns about what his client's wife referred to as the US non-assurance’ regarding Assange's First Amendment right to freedom of expression

    The US legal team has said that Assange can "raise and seek to rely on" the First Amendment, but has offered no guarantee that he will receive protections under it. US prosecutors have previously claimed that Assange is not protected by the First Amendment as he is not a US citizen.

    Fitzgerald argued that “this is plainly an inadequate assurance”, and pointed to previous cases in which US prosecutors have provided clear and unequivocal assurances on similar issues.

    This uncertainly regarding Assange’s First Amendment rights underlines the risk that he may face prejudice due to his nationality.

    Can the UN and Human Rights Groups Assist Assange? 

    In 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Assange had been unlawfully detained in the Ecuadorian Embassy, by the UK and Sweden, and recommended that he be freed and compensated. A number of UN special rapporteurs have also raised the alarm about his case and called for his release. 

    In 2019, Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture, found that Assange’s treatment by the UK Government amounted to torture and could put his life at risk.

    In a later book on the Assange case, Melzer wrote: “The Assange case is the story of a man who is being persecuted and abused for exposing the dirty secrets of the powerful, including war crimes, torture and corruption. It is a story of deliberate judicial arbitrariness in Western democracies that are otherwise keen to present themselves as exemplary in the area of human rights.”

    Melzer’s successor, Alice Jill Edwards, also called on the UK to halt Assange’s extradition to the US. Edwards highlighted the risk of solitary confinement and the harm to Assange’s mental health, in addition to the threat of a 175-year prison sentence. Edwards also raised concerns about the lack of protection for whistleblowers under the US Espionage Act. 

    These same concerns were echoed by Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, who said: “Gathering, reporting and disseminating information, including national security information when it is in the public interest, is a legitimate exercise of journalism and should not be treated as a crime.”

    Khan also noted that, if extradited, Assange would be the first publisher to be prosecuted in the US under the Espionage Act.

    Several respected human rights organisations have also campaigned on Assange’s behalf. Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists led a coalition of civil society groups urging the US Department of Justice to drop the charges against Assange, and reminding the US Government of the ‘New York Times problem’ that prevented the Obama administration from pressing charges, i.e. the risk that prosecuting Assange could leave journalists across the world at risk of prosecution for carrying out their duties in the public interest. 

    Due to state sovereignty, both the UK and the US would likely face widespread public criticism and condemnation, but no domestic legal consequences, if they proceed to extradite Assange.

    A Last-Minute Lifeline?

    President Biden has said he is considering a request from Australia to drop the 14 year-long US pursuit of Assange and allow him to return to his home country, but he may only have months left to do that.

    Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called Biden's acknowledgement of his request "encouraging", and according to Sky News, said on 11 April: "I believe this must be brought to a conclusion and that Mr Assange has already paid a significant price and enough is enough.

    "There's nothing to be gained by Mr Assange's continued incarceration, in my very strong view, and I've put that as the view of the Australian Government."

    Pages