Listening Post

Regulating a free press

As the UK forms a regulatory body to curb the excesses of print journalists, we look at the future of the British press.
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2013 13:42

It’s the scandal that ripped through Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and the British political establishment. And this week, it ended in the creation of a regulatory body designed to curb the excesses of Britain’s print journalists - the first change to how Britain’s press is checked in more than 300 years.
The new media watchdog comes after a lengthy Leveson inquiry – set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal – which recommended an independent body backed by legislation.

After months of political battles, Britain’s three main political parties announced on March 18 that Britain’s rambunctious press would now have to contend with a regulator that has the power to impose million pound fines on UK publishers and demand upfront apologies.

While each party has claimed victory, campaign groups are split on the outcome and as yet no major newspaper has signed up to the body.

On our lead story this week, we discuss the future of the British press with Stig Abell, the former director of the Press Complaints Commission; author Dan Hind; Natalie Fenton, a media professor; and Kirsty Hughes, the chief executive of Index on Censorship.

On this week’s Newsbytes: In Pakistan, authorities arrest a suspected militant in connection with the kidnapping of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered back in 2002; a US journalist faces ten years jail after being accused of helping hackers infiltrate the website of a US news organisation; and in Thailand, the controversial lese majeste law makes the news again.

In the past few years, Turkey’s image as a moderate Muslim state has been tarnished by the government’s heavy handed approach to critical voices in the media. According to press freedom groups, Turkey has around 70 journalists behind bars – more than anywhere else in the world. At the heart of the problem is a vaguely worded terror law ostensibly aimed at equating coverage of banned groups with terrorism itself.

In the run up to the recently announced ceasefire between the biggest Kurdish Party, the PKK, and the Turkish government, sensitivity over coverage was at its height – just days before the announcement, a prominent columnist, Hasan Cemal, suddenly disappeared from the pages of a leading paper, Milliyet.

Then there’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s cozy relationship with conglomerates that allows him to determine the red lines that restrict Turkish media. To discuss Turkey’s deteriorating state of press freedom, the Listening Post’s Flo Phillips speaks with Yavuz Baydar, of Sabah newspaper; author Andrew Finkel; writer and political commentator Ece Temelkuran; and columnist for Hurriyet newspaper Mustafa Akyol.

And finally, in our Web Video of the Week: Instagram, the photo-sharing website for Generation Y, which was launched in 2010, allows users to apply an array of digital filters to their images before posting away. The result has been more than 100 million users sharing everything from their breakfast to their baby’s first steps. It’s the online fad that caught the attention of the team at College Humor, who have sampled a track from Canadian rock band Nickelback to show us the self-obsessive nature of the Instagrammer. We hope you enjoy the show!

Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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