As the chaos in Iraq continues, with the ISIS insurgency continuing to cause mayhem as it moves towards Baghdad, one unapologetic supporter of the 2003 adventure that started the slide into instability has decided to open mouth and insert foot on the subject of press freedom: step forward Tone’s unswerving supporter John McTernan, given a platform at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs.
Here, he considers the show trial of three al-Jazeera journalists in Cairo on trumped-up terrorism charges, which ended yesterday with the handing down of seven-year jail sentences. The three had been doing nothing more subversive than reporting from Egypt on what was happening there. But for McTernan, it was an opportunity to cast fact to the winds, and raise the false spectre of state control of the press.
Now, since the Leveson Inquiry concluded and its report was published, there have been many creative interpretations of its content, many of them substantially untrue, but McTernan takes the blatant dishonesty to a new level. First, he talks of critics of Egypt’s approach: “Prominent among them is that of Index on Censorship, a British NGO noted in the past for its sterling work in defending press freedom globally”.
This is used to segue in to telling that Index “recently appointed the comedian Steve Coogan as its patron – thereby aligning itself with a small band of zealots who are seeking to muzzle the press here in Britain. The Hacked Off campaign, which Coogan often speaks for, is pursuing a regime for overseeing the press that would be nothing more or less than state regulation”. Not true, but hey ho.
There’s more: “The case against Hacked Off is simply put. It wants to use the excesses of the News of the World to create a system that would gag independent journalists and prevent papers from investigating and exposing scandalous behaviour by figures in the public eye”. Hacked Off does not support prior restraint on the press, or as McTernan calls it, “gagging”, so that’s another whopper, then.
“For Hacked Off, this is a moral crusade about the right to privacy in the face of illegal actions by journalists”. And it isn’t campaigning for a privacy law, either. “It is already illegal to hack phones, and it is against the law for police officers to sell confidential information to newspapers”. No John, I don’t want to look over there, thanks. Hacked Off is about press accountability.
Hacked Off is about the press acknowledging its mistakes, saying sorry, retracting false stories, publishing apologies and corrections, and curbing bad behaviour by their staff – while ending the culture of “tough – sue us if you think you’re hard enough”. And it is about a press self-regulator truly independent of proprietors, editors and politicians. But idiot McTernan just wants to compare it to Egypt.
John McTernan is a man without credibility, honesty or principle. He’s a sham.