Letters: Press freedom

Press freedom under threat

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The Independent Online

Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev's decision to launch The Journalism Foundation could not have been better timed, as journalism in both the developed and the underdeveloped world faces huge challenges as well as opportunities ("Our mission: to promote free journalism across the globe", 5 December).

The Lebedevs are right to observe that "Britain's newspapers – the most brilliant, raucous press corps in the world – had enough on their plate before the hacking scandal exposed a culture of skulduggery and intimidation very close to home."

Hopefully, however, the Lebedevs' Journalism Foundation will not lose sight of the fact that their "most brilliant, raucous press corps" can also include the best of popular tabloid journalism. While it's true that the Leveson Inquiry is spotlighting the dark side of the British tabloids through the harrowing testimony of the McCanns, the Dowlers and others, there is a real danger that it could become too much a witch-hunt against the mass-circulation titles rather than a well-balanced inquiry.

Millions of popular newspaper readers can be outraged over the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone while defending their own right to choose a red-top read and fearing the "Establishment" wants to force-feed them a newspaper diet that doesn't suit their palate. That suspicion may have been reinforced by the alarming absence on the Leveson panel of a single media member with sharp-end tabloid experience, or anyone with similar expertise in the rapidly-expanding cyberspace frontier of the blogosphere.

The Lebedevs eloquently argue how the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya and the killing, torture, imprisonment and intimidation of brave journalists in Africa, Asia, Latin America and parts of Eastern Europe epitomise the high price journalists pay in pursuit of freedom of speech and the cause of democracy. It would be fatuous to suggest that press freedom in Britain is threatened to the same extent by the fallout from the hacking scandal unfolding at the Leveson Inquiry. But that doesn't rule out the serious risk that the inquiry, launched in haste by David Cameron to offset his own embarrassment over the Coulson connection, could result in a regulatory regime that undermines the ability of British journalists, broadsheet and tabloid, to hold the powerful, the rich and the hypocritical to account.

PAUL CONNEW

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Clegg pledges boardroom curb

 

The Tory government that Nick Clegg supports is taking more from families with children than it is from the bankers who caused the crisis. The Government could have repeated the bankers' bonus tax, but chose to hit those on low and middle incomes harder than the wealthiest.

The Tories and their Lib Dem friends have cut the living standards of some of the poorest in our country to pay for the mistakes of some of the wealthiest. Curbing excessive pay by FTSE executives ("New laws to clamp down on executive pay pledged", 5 December) should have been in the Autumn Statement not announced the following week.

Bill Esterson MP

(Sefton Central, Lab)

House of Commons

 

How refreshing to see a politician stating that failure should go unrewarded. Who shall be first in the queue?

How about the Governor of the Bank of England who has now missed his performance target for 25 months? Could the politicians themselves be deemed to have been a roaring success lately, spending money they don't have on opportunistic excursions into other people's countries and persecuting the low-paid backbone of Britain with yet more taxes to pay for them?

Perhaps the Department of Energy and Climate Change with their £3bn worth of windmills dotted around the countryside or the Health and Safety Executive who make life a misery for the producers of the country?

Nick Clegg's broad statement, if applied fairly, would see a very welcome major upset in the way this country works and is governed.

Barry Clarke

Doulting, Somerset

 

The obsession with growth

 

I was delighted to read Mary Dejevsky's refreshing spin on the way we think about gross domestic product ("Our irrational preoccupation with growth", 2 December).

As a female director and member of the Institute of Directors, it is no surprise to me that it takes a woman to expound such a counter-culture argument. Men are still, sadly, obsessed with size – I am frequently confronted with a man's turnover within the first 10 minutes of a networking meeting.

They should take note of what I learned very early on in my business career: "Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity." The same applies to GDP.

Celia Delaney

Exeter

 

Bravo and thank-you to Mary Dejevsky for her courageous and cogent challenge to the all-prevailing myth of gargantuism: that our survival depends on continuous growth and development. The politicians and economists who continue to peddle this illusion are of a similar sort to those who promoted the euro dream – so we'd better all prepare for meltdown.

Dominic Kirkham

Manchester

 

Argentina's new aggression

 

In 1982 Britain stood up to military aggression from Argentina and recaptured the Falkland Islands after we were invaded. During that campaign 255 British troops died for us, and our wish to remain British is only made possible by the continuing presence of British forces in the Islands.

Argentina has never given up its claim to the Falklands but the armed aggression of 1982 has been replaced by an aggressive economic war, much of which does not reach the ears of the British public. Argentina has illegally blocked our shipping links with Chile, continues to harass and illegally board EU boats fishing in our waters and threatens international companies that they will be banned from trading with Argentina if they dare to do business with us. As the 30th anniversary of the 1982 conflict approaches many here believe that our only air link with South America will be blocked, as it has to pass through Argentinian air space.

Argentina is now proposing that the their athletes competing in the London Olympics wear a logo stating "Las Islas Malvinas son Argentinas" or "The Falklands are Argentine". The Olympics are supposed to be apolitical. Is this really how we want to remember the 255 who died defending us?

Dr Barry Elsby

Stanley, Falkland Islands

 

Looking after our deer

 

Your article about chestnuts in Richmond Park (2 December) sadly misses the point.

Chestnuts and acorns form the staple diet of Richmond Park's much-loved deer. While the nuts may appear to be plentiful, the supply can be severely depleted by visitors taking them from the park. This puts the deer at real risk of malnutrition or even starvation. In previous years, the park has experienced problems with people attempting to steal bags full of chestnuts for onward sale. It is for this reason that we have put up notices kindly asking visitors not to remove the chestnuts.

The article goes on to suggest that the motivation behind protecting the deer's food supply is incompatible with the biannual cull. This is untrue: both are about ensuring the herds' wellbeing. The the park only has adequate grazing to sustain a finite number of healthy animals. Without moves to control herd numbers and protect the deer's food supply, the animals would eventually suffer as a result of overcrowding and competition for increasingly scarce resources. This in turn could lead to the animals' starvation and death.

Simon Richards

Park Manager, Richmond Park, Surrey

 

My pact with the book-trade 'devil'

 

While I can understand James Daunt's motives and business reasons for not liking Amazon ("Amazon are a ruthless money-making devil", 5 December) several facts can't be ignored. Do I even need to put the first one into words? Price.

Many are the times I have browsed bookshop shelves and noted the price of a book that I would like, only to then be able to buy it new for about half that price from Amazon, or at an even lower price from an affiliate seller. And that doesn't even bring into view the ease of buying second-hand books from sellers whom you come to trust.

True, it's good to be able to handle books in a shop, but although Mr Daunt criticises the Amazon process of "If you like this, you'll like that", he ignores the usefulness of buyers' reviews. When any item accrues a body of reviews, it becomes very easy to make judgements about whether it is likely to be something you would like.

Although I sympathise with Mr Daunt, if I can save 50 per cent or more by buying through Amazon or its affiliate sellers, then they will continue to get well over 95 per cent of my business.

Alan Sturgess

Gargrave, North Yorkshire

North-South pay divide

 

I do not share your enthusiasm for regional pay differentials (leading article 3 December). You are right to point out that "staff in some areas have lifestyles unaffordable elsewhere". But do you consider pay in the South-east to be too low or in the North too high? Does injustice reside in the fact that my colleagues in the South-east cannot afford to buy a four-bedroom house, or that I can?

A cynicism nurtured by four decades in the teaching profession inclines me to suspect that the Government will take the latter view. It should tread carefully around a problem the solution of which could raise more difficulties than it solves.

Stephen Shaw

Nottingham

 

Rich gifts

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (5 December) mentions "top-range glossy magazines" with their Christmas gift suggestions whose cost "would feed a family for a week". In fact there is no need to look any further than your own non-glossy supplements. The 50 Best Gifts for men in Saturday's Information work out around £140 each. And as for the less expensive offerings, if I gave any of my family or friends a set of Allen keys costing £45, they would assume that I had gone completely potty.

Jeremy Lawford

Exeter

 

Bring back King

Unlike Gregory Whitehead (letter, 29 November), I am not worried by the background of Jonathan King. Having done his time, I'd like to see him back on our screens because he was good at his job, with Entertainment USA one of my favourite 1980s programmes. Airbrushing him out of the BBC's history seems to me like Stalinism.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

 

Soup etiquette

The view of Mary Sorensen's great aunt (letter, 3 December) that soup is neither eaten nor drunk but "taken" is confirmed by Lord Curzon, whose authority in a matter of etiquette is surely beyond question. He asserted: "Gentlemen do not take soup at luncheon."

Tom Thomas

Middlesbrough

 

Nancy Mitford taught us that it is "U" to tip a pudding plate towards you but a soup plate away from you. Sadly, no advice was proffered concerning porridge.

Brian Mayes

Edinburgh

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