The Guantánamo illusion, Richter in the US and think tanksby Prospect / November 16, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Freedom of speech
Geoffrey Robertson writes persuasively on the need to protect press freedom. However, he is misguided in both the targets of his ire—Ed Miliband and Ivan Lewis, who called for a public inquiry—and in his conclusion.
Writing in the Guardian in July, Robertson himself was eloquent on the need for an “urgent” public inquiry: “There must be an examination of the culture of the tabloid press, the bribery and corruption… the total failure of self regulation… the inadequate training of journalists,” he said. But now his proposed remedy, of “simply leaving [media regulation] to the law,” would be even worse than what we have now. Why? Because it is a solution available only to the super rich. Costs in libel cases can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds: according to a 2008 report by Oxford University’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, the costs in England are around 140 times the European average.
In parallel with the Leveson inquiry, we have the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill being pushed through parliament. This abolishes conditional fee arrangements—“no win, no fee”—which will make it almost impossible for ordinary people to sue for libel. People like Milly Dowler’s parents would not be able to pursue their cases—and we would still be hearing the tired claims that the press seek only to hold the rich and powerful to account. If only that were true.
Helen Goodman MP
Shadow minister for culture, media and sport
Closure of Guantánamo, for which Anthony D Romero calls, would be only symbolic: the structures and networks that prop up and profit from its existence would remain. The prisoners, guilty or innocent, are trapped in a terrible battle between the traditional desire for a free society and the quest for national security at any cost. There are no winners in this game; America lost the moral high ground a long time ago and the ever-elusive objective of eliminating terrorism has not, and can not be achieved.