There is a new story in town: the phone-hacking scandal. To cut a long story short, it seems that all the scoops made by some newspapers over the last twelve years (News Of The World, the Sun and the Sunday Times) have been published because some ruthless journalists have managed to hack into private phones. I wasn’t born yesterday and I know that there is no such thing as a free scoop, but where has real investigative journalism gone?
I am not talking about a small size scheme here. From the latest news, it looks like approximately 4000 (yes, four thousands) persons might have been the unfortunate victims of phone hacking. In short, it was an industrial organisation, almost comparable to the Government Communications Headquarters based in Cheltenham. Apparently there was some sort of police investigation into this matter in 2002, but eventually the case was dropped, because the priority was to fight terrorism. As a result, the phone hacking went on, unpunished.
But this pathetic story doesn’t stop here. Families of victims (7/7 victims in particular)–or even victims themselves- were targeted, and, their phone were hacked. Is this what freedom of press is about?
The funny thing is that, being French, I am all about the independence of the press. In France, the press is by no mean independent and the best way to be informed is to actually know and talk to journalists rather than read the newspapers. If you don’t believe me, here are a couple examples:
– – Francois Mitterrand was well-known for ordering the French secret services to hack into sexy actresses’ phones so that he could try to seduce them later. No one reported it until years later. Furthermore, he had a natural daughter, Mazarine and she was living at the taxpayers’ expense in one of the state properties. All the journalists knew. No one said anything.
– – More recently, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, had an editor sacked because he had dared to publish a picture of his ex-wife Cecilia with her then-lover, Richard Attias.
As a result, most French newspapers are pretty dull (journalists need to make sure they please their ultimate masters) and, funnily enough, very condescending.
In short, one of the few things I used to admire when I moved to London was the press. They are ruthless and the tabloids are full of kiss-and-tell stories (of disputable taste) but, naively, I thought that the journalists were just doing their job and, to an extent, working in the public best interest. I loved the way they were grilling politicians and personalities. Now I am not so sure. It is all about making a profit and increasing the sales. If you need to listen to the conversation of the family of a murdered girl, then so be it. One day you can say something and the next the opposite. It doesn’t matter. It is all about increasing the sales. Where have honesty and hard work gone?
Neither the French nor the Anglo Saxon model seems to work. So, what’s next? Do we need a stronger regulator of the press? I don’t really believe in regulators –in the short term, they just lead to more bureaucracy and they all seem to get very cosy with the business they are supposed to regulate over time. Or do we just need to go back to good, old-fashioned values of honesty and ethics (I sound like my Grandma and I hate it, but that would be my preferred option). I simply don’t know and would like to have your views on this. How did we let this happen?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London