Thursday, 15 January 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: Charlie Hebdo to FOI

Pic: BBC

Nick Cohen in the Observer: "Most journalists have lived a lie for years, as have many in the arts, academia and comedy. We take on the powerful – and ask you to admire our bravery – if, and only if, the powerful are not a paramilitary force that may kill us."

Charles Moore in the Telegraph: "The media deplored the death threats that followed the (genuinely un-nasty) Danish cartoons, but did not publish them. We say 'Nous sommes Charlie', but fight shy of reprinting the magazine’s Mohammed gags, so readers never quite know what the story is about. Employers worry about their staff’s safety. Some even fear upsetting Muslim newsagents. Terrorism is working."

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian: "It is not only violent jihadists who resent representations of the prophet: such pictures trouble many millions of peaceful Muslims too. To print one now would be to take a stand against the former by offending the latter."

Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times [£]: "The point about the Muhammad cartoons, however, is that almost none of those expressing solidarity with Charlie Hebdo are willing to put their own lives (or those of their colleagues) on the line in the cause of religious satire. Not that I blame them. As an editor I once overruled the decision of a page designer to illustrate a review of a book on Islam with a picture of the prophet. I told my colleague I had no doubt about its appropriateness on journalistic or historical grounds, but 'if we publish that, we’ll have nutters with hooks for hands storming the building'.  The public explanation of such a decision would have been that the paper did not want to cause offence. That is mere cant: newspapers are always offending people — it’s one of the joys of journalism."

David Cameron and Barack Obama writing in The Times [£]: "When the freedoms that we treasure came under a brutal attack in Paris, the world responded with one voice. Along with our French allies, we have made clear to those who think they can muzzle freedom of speech and expression with violence that our voices will only grow louder."

Nick Clegg, at the Journalists' Charity reception at the Irish Embassy: "Among those linking arms in paris were leaders of other less liberal countries where people are still locked up or worse for speaking their mind, or journalists for doing their job."

Matthew Parris in The Times [£]: "This is no high noon and none is coming. Our culture and governments are infinitely superior, more competent and more powerful; if there is a war it is a war in which our own casualties are light and 99 per cent of the dead seem to be unlucky Muslims in the Middle East. On our own soil sporadic atrocities will always be possible and to their victims bring unfathomable grief; but there is not the remotest chance that fundamentalist Islam will sweep the globe or hobble our free media. We should have more confidence in ourselves than that. I understand — I share — the angry defiance of the world of authors and journalists, but I’m finding it a little self-referential and a little shrill."

Jane Martinson in the Guardian: "But whatever lessons were learned, the most striking image from this awful week at the start of 2015 were those of international protest by people holding pens and pencils aloft, a universal show of support for an industry where such things are today so rare."

Max Hastings in the Daily Mail: "Such people as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Edward Snowden (the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor turned treacherous fugitive), who have broadcast American and British secrets wholesale, are celebrated as heroes by some people who should know better, many of them writing for the Guardian or broadcasting for the BBC. In truth, Assange and Snowden have damaged the security of each and every one of us, by alerting the jihadis and Al Qaeda, our mortal enemies, to the scale and reach of electronic eavesdropping."

Campaign for Freedom of Information director Maurice Frankel on 10 years of FOI in the UK, in new book FOI 10 years on: freedom fighting or lazy journalism? : "The media have played an absolutely critical role. They have not only opened up streams of important news stories but demonstrated to the wider public that FOI works and is worth using."


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