Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Fact, fiction and the media

The Derry Journal has a very good editorial on media bias:

AS THE furore continues around allegations about bank robberies, money laundering and everything else some sections of the media seem to have lost all perspective and decided that Sinn Fein are fair game and anything can be reported as fact regardless of how true or otherwise it may be.

The media has a duty to try and be as objective as possible and to be very careful what is reported especially in times when most people are relying on the media for their information.

However, in recent days some sections of the media seem to have thrown all caution to the wind and have been reporting as facts things that are no more than allegations or speculation.

The arrests last week in Dublin were a case in point with some newspapers naming many of those arrested even though they were only being questioned and had been charged with nothing.

The fact that they all were subsequently released shows just how dangerous this sort of reporting is.

Then on the Friday morning a reporter stated quite categorically that two of those arrested were members of the Provisional IRA and even stated in which department of that organisation they worked.

These two were also released without charge.

On Friday night we had the UTV news showing footage of an interview with Martin McGuinness that was obviously taken after the formal live interview had ended. This is not, most definitely, normal journalistic practice.

Republicans may, or may not, have been responsible for some recent incidents but it should be left to the courts to decide innocence or guilt. Speculation and hype are a poor substitute for due process.

There also seems to be a small number of reporters who have become so close to their security sources they take every word they say as gospel.

Surely in a democratic society the role of the media is to act as the watchdog of society and not to act as the slave of the security services or any other branch of government.

The current situation is far too serious and there is too much at stake for it to be placed in jeopardy by sections of the media reporting as fact things that turn out to be completely false.


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