Shaykh Daoud’s Blog

‘When did journalism die?’ Thoughts on the harrying of Glen Greenwald’s friend

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On 18 August, 2013, David Miranda, 28, a Brazilian national, was held for nine hours at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 while on his way from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with his partner Glen Greenwald. His laptop, mobile phone, and pen-drives were taken by police, and as yet have not been returned.

Mr Greenwald is the American journalist and columnist for The Guardian newspaper of London who has been at the centre of publishing and commenting on sensitive documents released by Edward Snowden, currently on temporary asylum in Russia. These documents revealed the extent of the illegal and unconstitutional spying world-wide of the Americans’ National Security Agency (NSA) aided and abetted by Britain’s Cheltenham-based Government Communications Head-Quarters (GCHQ).

The NSA’s activity is forbidden under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

In an unsigned article, the BBC website stated “Mr Greenwald said the authorities “spent the entire day asking about the reporting I was doing and other Guardian journalists were doing on the NSA stories”, while Mr Miranda said he was questioned about his “whole life” by “six agents”. Mr Greenwald accused the authorities of “bullying” and said it was “clearly intended to send a message of intimidation” to those working on the NSA revelations. The Guardian, several senior UK politicians and the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, have demanded a full explanation. Brazil has also sought answers from the UK.”

The legality or otherwise, and the appropriateness of using the Terrorism Act in this way, including the way that GCHQ agents have been destroying hard-drives in the basement of The Guardian’s offices will presumably be tested by The Guardian newspaper and other interested parties.

It is, however, a matter of concern that nearly all the write-ups in the UK press have given the impression of re-write jobs or simple topping and tailing of government handouts or briefings.

And, given the clear intimidatory signal being sent to journalists by this action, the apparent silence of the National Union of Journalists, the British Association of Journalists, and the Chartered Institute of Journalists, is very worrying.

Mr Greenwald stated in an interview on CNN, ““If you want to start criminalizing (journalism), it means that you’re asking, as a citizen, to be kept ignorant and to allow people in power to conceal what they’re doing behind a wall of secrecy and to have no accountability or transparency,” he said. “Journalism is not a crime and it is not terrorism.”

Greenwald added that every single major news organisation in the world has classified information. “Reporting on what governments do in secret is what journalism is about.” he stated. “So if you want to support the idea that states can just go and confiscate from journalists classified information, you should be demanding that your government go physically into newsrooms and seize whatever classified information is there,” he continued.”

I have often wondered in print when journalism died.

When I would tutor trainee journalists on newspapers and magazines where I worked, I would always insist that they read the Editorial penned on Friday, 6 February 1852, by John Delane, the famous Editor of The Times, as in it Delane states quite clearly and unequivocally what the role of the journalist (“public writer”) is, his or her relationship to politicians and the classe politica (“statesmen”), and the ethics of the profession. Too few of today’s current practitioners of the art live up to Delane’s standards – Greenwald is one of them.

“The purposes and the duties of the two powers [politicians and the press] are constantly separate, generally independent, sometimes diametrically opposite. The dignity and freedom of the press are trammelled from the moment it accepts an ancillary position. To perform its duties with entire independence, and consequently with the utmost public advantage, the press can enter into no close or binding alliances with the statesmen of the day, nor can it surrender its permanent interests to the convenience of the ephemeral power of any Government.

The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation. The statesman collects his information secretly and by secret means; he keeps back even the current intelligence of the day with ludicrous precautions, until diplomacy is beaten in the race with publicity. The press lives by disclosures; whatever passes into its keeping becomes a part of the knowledge and the history of our times; it is daily and for ever appealing to the enlightened force of public opinion – anticipating, if possible, the march of events – standing upon the breach between the present and the future, and extending its survey to the horizon of the world…

For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure off acts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences – to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world….

Of all professions, statesmanship is that in which the greatest laxity of practice is tolerated by the usages of society. Concealment, evasion, factious combinations, the surrender of convictions to party objects, and the systematic pursuit of expediency, are things of daily occurrence… We know not if these be useful or essential parts of statesmanship,… But we know that they are absolutely destructive to the credit, the power, and the success of a public writer; and he who would traffic with his pen on such terms had better take refuge at once among those mercenary hacks who court the favours of every successive Government. Of all journals; and of all writers, those will obtain the largest measure of public support who have told the truth most constantly and most fearlessly.

The press owes its first duty to the national interests which it represents, but nothing is indifferent to it which affects the cause of civilization throughout the world… it seems to us the first duty of public writers is to take care that the people of England are not lulled into indifference to the destruction of liberty and the violation of political rights…”

I detect no searching criticisms of Her Majesty’s Government’s actions in serving the interest of a foreign power, no questioning of Her Majesty’s Home Secretary for her claim that the actions of the police were legal even though there was no element of terrorism involved, and no interrogation of Her Majesty’s First Lord of the Admiralty as to why he and the government he heads were so willing to kow-tow to the United States of America for an act that is ultra vires of its own Constitution.

A vibrant and self-assured press is essential for the preservation of freedom and civilisation.

So, I ask again, when did journalism die?

©DRO 21082013

Written by David Rosser Owen

October 22, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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