Sunday, 14 November 2010

Free Press, not Free Pass

The United Kingdom has a tradition of 'free press' however journalists have few rights in UK law distinct from any other citizen.
Journalists are therefore required to act as 'the eyes and ears of the public' without much authority.

What facilitates journalism in our society is 'Freedom of Expression' .
There is no written constitution on the topic of freedom of expression however our rights are 'residual' -meaning you are allowed to exercise your freedom of expression without constraint as long as your activity is not in breach of the law.
The European Convention on Human Rights 2000, The Contempt of Court Act 1981 and The Human Rights Act 1998 all help in providing a rough code of how we should report fairly and accurately.

Freedom of Expression has depended traditionally on jury trial and the rule against prior restraint.

When acting as a practicing journalist it is essential that we acquire the ability to recognise risk.
Once a risk has been identified it is then necessary for the journalist to be able to indemnify him/herself.
Journalists who are guilty of 1) reporting/publishing errors 2) being careless 3) being neglectful are in breach of Media Law.

There are systems of regulation in place to help aid a 'fair press'.
Ofcom, the media regulator has a broadcasting code, if this is not adhered to, Ofcom has the power to fine or bring about sanctions against anyone in breach of their code of ethics.
There also exist the Press Complaints Commission which exists to adjudicate on complaints and comments regarding the press. The PCC's code of ethics also helps guide journalists in their work.

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