Sunday, December 8, 2013

Is It an Example of British-Style Press Freedom?

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Is it a British-style press freedom for a government to intimidate and put pressure on an editor for publishing materials leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former US security analyst now self-exiled in Russia?

A news story published in the New York Times under the headline "Editor Describes Pressure After Leaks by Snowden" on Dec 4, 2013 has raised questions about the limitations of press freedom  in one of the most democratic country in the world - Britain.

According to the NYT news story, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, said that the governments' measures "include prior restraint," as well as visits by officials to his office, the forced destruction of Guardian computer discs with power tools and repeated calls from lawmakers "asking police to prosecute the Guardian for disclosing the classified materials in news articles."

Well, freedom of press has been disputed and contradicted since modern printing press began in the 15th century, because printed words have great power to influence people.

Yet, no one disputes that the Guardian's top editor was pressured and intimidated by the British government for his genuine and true journalistic venture.

Today, this great power of words is greater and more effective than ever because of ubiquitous activities of the mass media, social media and the internet juggernauts.

Different kinds of governments place different kinds of limits on the press. There is no doubt about the maneuverings of authoritarian and communist regimes to limit the press freedom. But even the Western democratic countries too believe the power of words could be used to oppose them.

The recent activities of the British government vis-a-vis the Guardian newspaper demonstrates the truth that even the democratic governments have taken some kind of control of the press to use it in their own interests.

Alan Rusbridger suffered intimidation and harassment because of what the Guardian wrote.  

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