The recent allegations of phone hacking revealed some very worrying issues of power of the media in “democracies”. Admissions of payments to the police have been made before and it is shocking to say the least, that an enquiry was not ordered at the time. It doesn’t take a law degree to figure that it is illegal and certainly unethical!
What is even more worrying is what it means for “democracy”. There is suggestion that politicians have not pursued these allegations with vigour in the past because of fear of reprisals from the media. The press claim to hold politicians to account and this appears good for democracy and governance. Politicians should not be comfortable with the press but certainly not fear them so much as to become “too close”
The press act as judge and jury in all aspects; they are self regulated. They also hound politicians and celebrities with impunity with a cloak of public interest. Public interest is a very much contested notion. Who determines it ? Do private matters of public figures necessarily constitute public interest? It is also interesting that a few weeks ago there was outcry over super-injunctions that were being taken by celebrities. People were saying that the privacy laws were over the top. Although there are differences, now the argument has completely reversed.
Now we see the other extreme; excessive, unjustifiable, shameful intrusion of people’s lives. I believe investigative journalism plays an important part in a democracy. More scrutiny aids better governance. The problem in the UK has been a plurality of the media. Diverse views are needed from different media. The media are so powerful and they can easily make or break reputations. They have a tremendous influence on public opinion. It can be argued that they are more powerful than politicians as can be seen with the way politicians appease them.
Some sections of the media often forget that they have no mandate. Yes, politicians must be questioned and held to account, but at least they have a mandate from the voting public.
The media can watch the politicians, but, who will police the police?