Letters: Spare us the hysteria about press freedom


"Press freedom is too important to be left to the mercy of politicians" says Matthew Norman (28 November) and goes on to question the motives of just about anyone he can think of. Politicians in general who apparently harbour deep grievances are not to be trusted. Well they represent us, the poor public, who have no control otherwise over the Murdochs, Blacks and Dacres of this world.

The press has never been free – newspapers are commercial organisations whose purpose is either to make money or act as subsidised mouthpieces for their owners' prejudices. The Telegraph did not publish every detail of every duck shed or porno video for the public good; the NoW did not expose cricketers being bribed for any idealistic views on the game; they did it to sell newspapers. And let us be honest, to give the public what it wants to read – no news outlet ever got rich telling us the good news.

Sometimes matters of public interest came to light incidentally to the main purpose, but let us not try to defend oceans of bile with a few shining examples of indirect good. The press will always push way beyond the limits. We have to accept that they are incapable of behaving themselves unless someone makes them, and cut the hysterical rants about press freedom.

Everything in life is regulated and the press daily illustrate the need for that.

Tom Simpson


Ian Burrell (Media Studies, 26 November) reports that your group of papers has submitted, to Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry, that "a matter of fundamental principle [is to maintain] the freedom of expression that is the inalienable human right of every citizen". One should, however, distinguish between "freedom of expression" and freedom of speech – essentially of speech within the political process.

The US Constitution's First Amendment prevents "abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances". The context clearly refers to expression (spoken or written) within the political process. Broadening the notion to "freedom of expression" extends the opportunity to all manner of pornographers and racists who demand "the right" to ventilate their materials.

A commission which realises exceptions that restrain totally free expression will seek to provide something like the exceptions referred to in the US amendments to its constitution including: "speech that involves incitement, false statements of fact, obscenity, threats...".

On freedom of political speech we should be zealous, but realise that freedom of expression is a looser notion whose "territory" includes various pitfalls – which wise laws try to fence off.

Mallory Wober

London NW3

These last hours before the Leveson report is made public, we are observing editors of the press and their supporters crying foul, and pretending that their opponents want "licensing" or other statutory regulation.

No one has said anything about political control, or reviewing what is written for approval; yet this is the model the editors wheel out, pretending something that isn't. It is this that is wrong with the Press – the manufacture of stories and invention of goodness knows what.

Nicholas Ruddock

London E14

If even Dominic Lawson (27 November) admits that a large swathe of our gutter press would be unthinkable anywhere but the UK, then things really are bad. Perhaps a simple solution would be to make it legally obligatory that it prints news (which would leave gossip for the gossip mags) and comment only, and that each is grounded on fact.

Michael Rosenthal

Banbury, Oxfordshire

Nothing 'lazy' about Ukip supporters

Why does Steve Richards (27 November) denigrate over 14 per cent of the electorate as "lazily fashionable" for voting Ukip?

I fought the last election as a Tory parliamentary candidate in a key marginal seat. I left when Cameron's Conservatism left me, when I wasn't allowed to speak evil of the European question and told to shut up on my support for grammar schools. Most of Ukip's senior team are ex-Tories, most of the voters we are picking up in the North are ex-Labour voters. The left just don't get it.

Our policies are fully costed. I am leading a group on women and family policy. We believe in grammar schools – the only leg up for the working-class kids who are consigned to down-trodden housing estates.

We believe we should have control of our borders and allow in the brightest students from Indian and China, not just the poor from Europe over whom we have no control. The working classes have borne the brunt of immigration, driving down wages, putting a strain on the NHS and housing, doing the jobs that the one million NEETs would have been capable of doing.

It's just not disaffected Tories who support us and we are a threat to Labour in key marginal seats too.

Janice Atkinson

Chislehurst, Kent

Grace Dent is probably right that the Rotherham fostering story "was the best darned thing" that ever happened to Ukip ("We warmed to you briefly, Nigel. Then you blew it", 28 November). So this week the electorate of Rotherham has a heaven-sent opportunity to show that it values living in a tolerant society too highly to jeopardise this by casting a sympathy vote for Nigel Farage's party.

It is a sobering thought that the three East European children removed from a Ukip couple in Rotherham could well one day become the victims of the hostility towards EU migrants which is being whipped up by Ukip, and which found ugly expression in a recent demonstration against legitimate workers from other EU countries that took place in Boston, Lincolnshire.

Ukip is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and the voters of Rotherham would be doing us all a favour by not being taken in by the party's hypocritical bleating over the fostering affair.

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire

Opinion sure moves fast these days. Could anyone from the political and media commentariat advise, in the light of the Prime Minister's ruling out a Tory pact with Ukip, which he regards as a party of "closet racists", whether such people are fit to foster children of non-UK ethnic origin?

Dave Hansell


When in Rome, beware of racists

Waiting by the side of the road in Rome last Thursday as the police ushered through the convoy of coaches transporting Tottenham fans through the city for their match against Lazio, I heard a few fans chanting out of the buses at the Romans, "Racists! Racists!"

It was becoming clear by then that the Spurs fans brutally attacked in a city centre pub the night before weren't targeted because of footballing rivalry. Far-right thugs took the chance to attack them because of the club's reputation as of having a large Jewish following. In the stadium some Lazio fans gave voice to anti-semitic chanting.

Now, with their chants against Sol Campbell some Tottenham supporters are certainly not squeaky-clean as regards race issues. But it is a strange coincidence that these shameful acts in Rome done by genuine anti-semites and racists came in the same month as attention was brought to Spurs' fans use of the term "yids" as their own nickname.

I doubt that the Society of Black Lawyers note the irony of them asserting racism by Tottenham supporters in using this nickname. Whether misguidedly or not, these fans use the word as a term of endearment and pride. Surely last week's incidents show that the real racists aren't Tottenham fans singing about their club, but instead are those attacking them with hammers and baseball bats and severing arteries in the back streets of Rome.

John Laird


Foreign? No, he's Canadian

Why do the media insist on calling the new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, a "foreigner"? He is a Canadian. Canada is a member of the Commonwealth, the Queen is the Head of State. English is the mother tongue of most Canadians. He and the country are part of the British family.

This appointment is a case of the ailing mother turning for help and revitalisation to one of her thriving offspring. Very appropriate and as it should be. You wouldn't get this from Brussels.

Russell Armitage

Walsall, West Midlands

Vapour trail

Nicholas E Gough reports hedgerows "steaming" amid flooded fields (letter, 27 November). Frost on hedgerow leaves would have a much larger micro surface area than water would have. Frost would absorb the morning sun's energy more quickly and evaporate. The cold air would make this water vapour visible – or steam to use the vernacular. The nearby mist would indicate cold air and the conditions for water vapour to become visible.

Michael Andrew


Visual noise

Fabian Acker (letter, 26 November) is right to make a noise about noise. Living near a busy road, I experience motor vehicle noise day and night. But advertising in public spaces is pervasive, too: we can hardly opt-out from exposure to such advertising. Why can't we move in public spaces without being exposed to it?

Alex May


Lively response

Susan Collins says, "Still here." (letter, 28 November.) Inquiring after the health of my frail, elderly customer collecting her daily copy of Sporting Life before tottering across the road to the betting shop, I would ask, "And how are you today, Mrs Tomlinson?" to which she would reply, "Alive!"

Mike Cordery

Garrucha, Almería, Spain

All together

You report that "more than half of us say we're not all in it together" (28 November). Does it require 100 per cent of us to say that "we are all in this together" to prove that we are all in it together?

David Hasell

Thames Ditton, Surrey

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