Sad to say, it appears the British press is nearly as bereft of soul and testicles as the corporate-owned American media. You might recall that The Guardian’s reporting on GCHQ, the NSA of the UK, was bombshell stuff showing that pretty much every communication passing through the UK was being intercepted and saved for 30 days. That meant a good deal of European traffic as well, since the critical cables generally run through UK territory. This implied that GCHQ, which bragged that it faced looser legal strictures than the NSA, was scooping up a huge portion of all the communications between the US and Europe. That triggered outrage across Europe as Germans, for example, realized that the US was spying on them in ways their own government was legally prevented from doing.
This enormous story was not reported by the vast majority of the British press. The Guardian broke it, and only one other paper even mentioned it. Back in June I included a quote from a Guardian writer about the situation that’s worth reposting. Why, asks Roy Greenslade, is nearly the entire British press completely silent about a story that leads in practically every major paper around the world?
Is it a collective belief among a largely right-of-centre press that The Guardian is beyond the pale? This view emerged in a Daily Mail piece by Stephen Glover in which he spoke of the paper being so “driven by its own obsessions” as to “carelessly reveal the important secrets of the British government.”
The Mail holds aloft the banner of press freedom when citing the public’s right to know about Hugh Grant’s private life, but it appears to find it unacceptable for a paper to inform the people that their privacy has been compromised by their own government.
I don’t have time to spend looking through the rest of the British press, but I’m guessing they eventually got around to oblique mention of the issues. But again today the same thing has happened.
No doubt you’ve read about Glenn Greenwald’s partner being detained Sunday at London’s Heathrow airport for nine hours without being charged and without access to a lawyer. All his electronic equipment was confiscated, including anything such as a game console that could conceivably store data. This is legal, amazingly enough, because the British enacted a Lookout for the Terrorists! law that allows them to do it. I think the name was actually slightly different from that, but whatever.
And again, nearly the entire British press ignores the story.
This was a remarkable oversight by newspapers that have made so much of journalistic freedom throughout the Leveson saga. Is it not a story when a journalist’s partner is arrested? Or is this yet more evidence of an anti-Guardian agenda?
It reminds me that in June I wrote a blogpost headlined “Edward Snowden spoke, so why did the British press turn a deaf ear?”
Edward Snowden is an heroic whistleblower. The journalist who wrote his story, Glenn Greenwald, was responsible for breaking one of the world’s greatest exclusives.
Should we journalists, as a community, not be rallying to their cause rather than looking the other way?