Tuesday, February 05, 2002

On Irresponsibility

Unnacustomed as I am to leaping to the defence of the liberal press...

I have been accused of throwing around bizarre allegations by Iain Murray (and uncharitable behaviour by Natalie Solent) for my piece questioning his idea of the liberal media's responsibility for the (rumours of the) death of Daniel Pearl. So let's go through this, the liberal media were responsible for the plight of Daniel Pearl because they raised concerns about Guantanamo bay. While I find the idea that Guantanamo bay was more of a trigger than the bombing and invasion of next door Afghanistan rather bizarre, I will let that past. The point is that the treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo bay was all above board, until those pesky journalists came in and disturbed things.

Well not exactly. There may be -indeed there is- good reason as to why they are in a legal limbo, without the protection of either criminal law or the Geneva convention; this is however a situation that begs to be questioned. Indeed, when one says that it is almost fascist to oppose gangland killers walking free on technicalities - then the Cuban problem should at least be acknowledged. However, I don't believe that anyone does think that the situation is entirely normal, it is just that in war time that asking these questions is irresponsible, especially if the asking is shrill or over the top.

So, does this skirting around otherwise necesary questions constitute censorship? It certainly isn't state censorship, and if that is the impression then I should clarify/climb down (cross out as you think appropriate). However it is self censorship. Newspapers should not report news that they otherwise would because of the contingencies of (another country's) war, otherwise they are irresponsibly responsible for the death of journalists and whatever else. That's self censorship.

Of course Iain may not wish for this lamentable state of affairs. But isn't the assertion that a newspaper (that is never read overseas) and the BBC are responsible for the (dubious) death of a journalist on the basis of a single line in an e-mail (of doubtful provenance), and that these people were not perhaps motivated by the bombing of the next door country, well isn't it all rather irresponsible?


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