Letter: Press freedom and the evasion of responsibility

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The Independent Online
Sir: In today's leading article 'No special laws for the media', you protest that Sir David Calcutt 'seems to have no inkling of the potential odiousness of a government tribunal (to oversee the media)', but may I remind you of what Anthony Trollope wrote of his leader writer Tom Towers in chapter 14 of The Warden:

He loved to sit in a corner of his club and listen to the loud chatter of politicians and to think how they were all in his power - how he could smite the loudest of them, were it worth his while to raise his pen for such a purpose. He loved to watch the great men of whom he daily wrote and flatter himself that he was greater than any of them. Each of them was responsible to his country, each of them must answer if inquired into, each of them must endure abuse with good humour, and insolence without anger. But to whom was he, Tom Towers, responsible? No one could insult him: no one could inquire into him. He could speak out withering words and no one could answer him; ministers courted him, though perhaps they knew not his name; bishops feared him; judges doubted their own verdicts unless he confirmed them; and generals, in their councils of war, did not consider more deeply what the enemy would do, than what the JUPITER would say . . .

For, while you find the prospect of a panel of, say, judges to be odious, you appear to be content that the moguls of the media should usurp for themselves alone the role of arbiters of the public interest, and if that is not to be justified by editorial divinity, by what editorial virtue or mandate is it to be justified?

No, in their blatant pursuit of brute power, profits and sensation, the media are more to be seen as the chief violators of public interest than as its defenders.

Yours faithfully,


Budleigh Salterton,


15 January