World Press Freedom Day 2015

Today is World Press Freedom Day.

Dear reader that is something you should care about very much.

For me, a free press is a sine qua non of a functioning democracy.

If you are a regular visitor to this media platform, then you should know by now that not everyone agrees with that statement

Every November in the UK and beyond some folk wear the Royal British Legion Poppy, to remember those who “gave their lives for freedom”.

The same chaps then think nothing of threatening a journalist for, well, being a journalist.

Next week the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) will announce research that was is being carried out by Strathclyde University into the cyber bullying of people working in the media.

Scotland has become something of a centre of excellence for online harassment of journalists in recent years.

This will come as no surprise to the guid folk on Planet Fitba.

The sad thing is that this intimidation of journalists often works.

Indeed, it has taken outsiders like Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News to highlight this issue.

This broadcast was from 2012 when The People were particularly frenzied.

The Greenpeace slogan from many years ago seems very apposite:

“Think global, act local”.

Across the planet, there are journalists who are in mortal danger from oppressive regimes.

If the cyber bullying in Scotland is tolerated, then it could be a warm up act to something more serious.

One of the hats I wear in the NUJ is to sit on the Health and Safety Committee for the union.

It would be inappropriate for me to share confidential details here, but I am convinced that this cyber bullying in Scotland in recent years has had a negative impact on the health of several journalists.

It is beyond dispute that the collapse of Rangers in 2012 led to a huge upsurge in online threats and harassment.

Quite simply The People did not want to know the truth.

One Rangers supporter, Mr David Francis Limond, received six months in prison for sending a threatening communication to my book editor Ms Angela Haggerty.

Moreover, the court found that his actions on the ‘Rangers chat’ podcast were aggravated by racial and religious prejudice.

When she faced Limond down in court, she did the Fourth Estate in Scotland some service.

Ms Haggerty stated the simple, unvarnished truth in the witness box under sworn evidence in front of a Sheriff.

While she was doing that, many of the macho chaps manning the Glasgow sports desks could be found cowering under them hoping that they had not upset The People.

When it mattered their courage was somewhere off the radar.

Of course, if a fascist underclass is allowed to bully journalists into obedient irrelevance then it does not stop there.

My thoughts of those days in 2012 were in the forefront of my mind recently as I travelled to Kirkcaldy to pay my last respects to a man I had huge respect for.

Turnbull Hutton had a very low opinion of the Fitba Fourth Estate because they were, in his view, cowards.

Here is a simple enough proposition that I hope you will agree with dear reader.

An attack on a journalist is an attack on journalism and an attack on journalism is an attack on democracy.

If you are reading this, then you are contributing to the page views on this site.

Over the last six months, there has been a monthly average of over one million such views.

I like to think that this traffic is, in part, driven by the knowledge that the output here is free.

Free from PR pish and free from a need to curry favour with The People.

If I have bad news about their new football club and I consider it to be of Public Interest, then it will be published here.

One of the reasons that the Stenographers would not cover the Rangers story in 2011 and 2012 with any due diligence was that the wonder feared a circulation drop.

This outlet is supported by you dear reader and, therefore, the work into this murky world of side letters and backdoor deals can continue for as long as there is a Public Interest justification.

For the avoidance of doubt since I first reported on The People (the Famine Song) in 2008 and since then their threats and smears to make me Do Walking Away have failed.

In my opinion, the embarrassing shambles that is Sevco continues to shine a light on an appalling lack of corporate governance in the National Game in Scotland.

Therefore reporting on it remains in the Public Interest.

It does not come close to being as globally important as what journalists are uncovering in Egypt, Russia or Turkey.

However, I’m acting local…

The Strathclyde University Research will be the subject of an NUJ Press Conference this Tuesday and Ms Angela Haggerty will take part in that event.

The Stenographers should be sick with shame.

Press freedom matters dear reader around the world and in our little corner.

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