Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Britain's Labour Party proposal to license journalists

At this week's Labour Party convention in Britain, party leaders are putting forth a proposal for licensing journalists through a professional body.  Shadow Culture Minister Ivan Lewis will propose "system of independent regulation including proper like-for-like redress which means mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page".
Taking the decidedly illiberal approach even further, the proposal is said to call for the licensing body to have the authority to prohibit unlicensed journalists, and "licensed" journalists found in breach of an unspecified code of conduct, from practicing "journalism." Cory Doctorow's story on the proposal gives some examples of "journalism" being discussed -
Given that "journalism" presently encompasses "publishing accounts of things you've seen using the Internet" and "taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them" and "blogging" and "commenting on news stories," this proposal is even more insane than the tradition "journalist licenses" practiced in totalitarian nations.
The proposal from what used to be the more liberal of Britain's major parties is identified as a "message for Mr Murdoch", and specifically mentions the phone hack scandal at Murdoch's  News of the World (the British equivalent of the US's National Enquirer), and decries alleged attempts to have political influence.

Regrettably, that seems to be much of what passes for proposals for speech regulation these days - finding ways to silence the speech rights of critics.  (The gall of people - wanting to contribute to and possibly influence political discourse).  Defenders of free speech always hope that such proposals generate laughter and derision rather than cheers of support.  But it seems that the more we open channels for discussion, the more those in power regret having to listen.

Sources:   UK Labour Party wants journalism licenses, will prohibit "journalism" by people who are "struck off" the register of licensed journalistsboingboing
Phone hacking fallout: Labour plans tighter media regulation,  Guardian.co.uk

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