Sunday, 17 July 2011

Time to hold Rupert Murdoch and the government to account

There is perhaps no greater argument against unfettered free markets and unregulated media monopolies than the ongoing phone-hacking fiasco engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s News International. Free markets and open media are heralded as central tenets of liberal democracy – but in the last few weeks we have seen the most grotesque flaunting of our democratic principles. Phone hacking, the utilisation of state surveillance, bribery of police, the blurring of lines between big business and government, and the concentration of media into the hands of a narrow elite are all more commonly associated with totalitarianism than democracy.

Today’s arrest of Rebekah Brooks shows that News International is rotten to the core (if anyone was in any doubt) and demonstrates that corporations cannot be trusted to remain ethical and aboveboard without stringent regulation. Just as investment banking should be held to account for the recent financial crash, so should media moguls be held responsible for their disregard of democratic principles. Furthermore, we should champion a diverse, transparent and plural media which scrutinises – rather than fraternises with – government.

The News of the World – and along with it hundreds of jobs – was sacrificed to protect Brooks – but now the tentacles of corruption delve so deep into News International that Brooks herself – Murdoch’s protégé – has become the sacrificial lamb. Brooks must be held to account for what she has done – but the buck doesn’t stop with her. Rupert Murdoch himself must be brought to justice whilst the government – inextricably linked to the Murdoch Empire – must answer for its illegitimate corporate sycophancy.

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