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Read this: The Tricky Question of Press Freedom

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The Tricky Question of Press Freedom…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello and welcome today is the culture secretary Nadine dorries calls on the regulator Ofcom to consider action against what she calls Russian propaganda in the UK we're going to explore the limits of free media what point does a state or the law intervene for the benefit of an individual or a country will talk about Russian Media in the UK and about the media in Russia itself and from Bloomberg news because last week the Supreme Court stopped it publishing a story on privacy grounds the X responded by claiming press freedom is under sustained attack in Britain tell me explore all of these issues with joined by Erica Solomon Berlin correspondent for the Financial Times David Merritt senior executive editor at Bloomberg news, Hugh Tomlinson QC also.

Scarab Russia Media analyst BBC monitoring and Francis you're with this from Moscow and I'm guessing as you watch the news in Russia one story is dominating.

Yes, you're right really up until Friday Russian state tv.

Which is the main source of information to people here around two-thirds of the population was dismissive of any kind of anything happening really with Ukraine and that really going to change as soon as the the two leaders of the rebel Republic in Eastern Ukraine announce.

They were evacuating people to Russia since then it's really been a wave of information about Ukrainian hostility towards the people in donbas and about Russia playing this role of a Peacemaker and moving into protect them talking more detail in a few minutes.

Thank you very much indeed for joining us from Moscow but first of all let also bring in Chris Curtis editor and chief of broadcast magazine Chris very good to have you back on the media show and I've

Ask you about to the biggest names in BBC News Emily maitlis and Jon Sopel both leaving together and heading to the media company global to make a podcast to do a chauffeur LBC as well and of course all of this comes not long after Andrew Marr left the BBC and also went to Global so I wonder Chris how you assessed this announcement.

It's been characterised as a brain.

It's pretty clear that there's a string of high-profile their Talents and that when I go and you may have made the made the same moved there's a lot of Attraction I think those big name presenters moving away from the BBC if it gives them a little bit more freedom that might be editorial freedom given the BBC's Crackdown mashallah.

Tea, but it also might be commercial freedom to because at the moment.

It's difficult for those guys to write a column in the Mail on Sunday or even do.

Anything that might be seen to impinge upon their impartiality so you got a situation where for Talent like that the to be fair.

I have done their time championship.

This is done 20 years ago was the more but they might get to Station a career when they think themselves actually there are opportunities elsewhere no partiality.

Do you think the decisions being made hear it because the BBC changed its approach to impartiality or because big name presenters in correspondence a changing their view of what they would and wouldn't like to call because I think Andrew Marr made reference to that when when he moved and make the move to to LBC and I think there is a general shift towards a greater sense of commentary greater sense of viewpoint or perspective in news journalism that runs counter to the beach.

The director-general Tim Davie is coming in made impartiality pretty much the watchword under his tenure and that's not going away anytime soon.

So you've got potentially the wider market going in one way the BBC going in another and that's I think I think it's fair to say that's part of why some of these individuals are after Alexa secure Public Service Broadcasting to BBC looking elsewhere.

I want to ask you about that.

I also wanted to ask you about the issue of Russian Media in the UK will talk about that moment but let's bring Francis car from BBC monitoring weather in Moscow back into this discussion because Francis you mentioned that the Ukraine crisis has moved sharply up the running orders of Russian television programmes.

I wonder what the tenner is that covered where is the emphasis in the last couple of days well really the narrative ever since the weekend has been of Ukraine is the

And the people in the two well now recognised by Russia Republics in donbas as the victims and state TV has been dominated by report relentless Ukrainian shelling of civilian areas in donbas, and they also have been plenty of interviews with these evacuees people passed out into Russia ever since Friday and it was particularly striking interview.

I remember a girl around 7-years.

Old on the train.

She was with her family the report asked her.

What are you? What have you been scared of living in Dumbarton she said? What are the tanks and the shelling but also ukrainians and president zelensky now ever since they were recognised the mood has been one of jubilation on TV there were reports of of fireworks going off relating to the night and people in donbas waving Russian flags one man was interviewing a vox pop and he said.

Remember this for the rest of my life.

I'm going to tell my children about this moment.

I'm in really the the overall narrative going through is that Russia has been forced to take this Ukraine gave Russian no option President Putin has talk to genocide in Eastern Ukraine being waged by by Kiev and and that Russia simply had to respond and while Russian Media is a whole is pushing the narrative that you describe we know that the European Union is now expected the sanction a couple of individuals.

I'd like to help you ask you to help me get to know the Russian broadcast of Adam Levine and also margarita simonyan, who's the head of RTE of Russia Today why is the European Union particularly focused on these two?

Whatever since 2014 when Russia annexe the Crimean Peninsula and relations began to shopping with the west the criminals take increasingly corkish approach the West and it has been mirrored in the media here they've taken on this increasingly anti-western auntie Ukrainian tone and these two figures so loving simin han have Architects of this coverage and really about it's been about propagating this anti-western view among the Russian population and Abroad now.

It's all of yours is probably Russia's most popular Talk Show Host has a late night TV programme in a radio programme and at the weekend since 2018.

He has been hosting a programme called Moscow Kremlin Putin which follows the president's movements in excruciating detail and has been accused of spreading almost a new personality of President Putin

Sorry, sorry carry on well.

Someone is the editor of Russia today and also the head of two news agencies in Russia Sputnik which is the international one and another one domestically and the language that these to these two people use Red Lyon on TV is extremely vitriolic just to give you an example.

So love you the other day was dismissive of German Chancellor Olaf scholz comments about when shorts said that Putin's comments about genocide Thorne bus was ridiculous, so love said that when a German pronounces genocide ridiculous and done but in the same sentence my steep my teeth begin to Clinch and my hands reach for a kalashnikov rifle and evidently the European Union these two individuals now need to be targeted and we're expecting sanctions Francis thank you very much indeed now today the flashing the Russian foreign ministry has said that if the UK touches Russia Today art.

Measures any British generals in Russia which should go and ask their Russian counterparts how it works was the quote and the reason this is in the news in part is because it has been talking about Russian Media she's published an open letter to the head of Ofcom the regulator and in it.

She says that Russia Today is demonstrably part of Russia's global disinformation campaign party with dispute that categorisation the culture secretary goes on to say that it remains essential that Ofcom keeps the situation very carefully under review in such sensitive times and takes action when necessary what does the culture secretary and then this is the prime minister in the House of Commons earlier.

We living in a democracy Mrs speaker and we live in a country that believe in free speech and I think we should leave it up to Ofcom rather than two politicians to decide which Media organisations at a bad.

What is Curtis from broadcast magazine first of all Help Me Understand when the culture secretary talks about this information what she referencing she's referencing how reporting an Avensis is done that I mean Frances talking about you and how are narratives being being portrayed Ofcom has butted heads with RT previously find the channel £200000 few years ago with regards to its coverage of the Salisbury poisonings that was the impartiality issue where the regulator deemed the way he presented that story was inaccurate and unfair so there is little bit of history, but it's it's a complex.

I mean that you play in some ways contradictory is a pincer movement going on you got the culture secretary warning off concert come on.

You need to make sure your across this and then you got the prime minister.

It's saying well.

It's it's entirely up.

The regulated to decided that it is a tricky balancing act for the regulators a walk and how does it actually work who does have the power to pull RT of the air? Is it Ofcom is it the one of the two of them sitting down if they reminded to yes, I mean Ofcom coronavirus broadcasting licences.

That's when it's gift.

It doesn't happen very often.

I mean you know it at the time when of commas is ruling against broadcast as it's frankly serious issues, then sort of state propaganda a time of potential warfare.

You know this is difficult difficult thing for Ofcom assessed the ability to effectively resolve give me a rap on the knuckles find them and does ultimately if it is if it believes that the fences so egregious it does have the ability to revoke licences, but that would have huge political implications.

Before we go any further Chris Let's Hear just a little of parties output one of its most recognisable faces in the UK at least is George Galloway he presents his mother of all talk shows that runs on spitting it rain but also this is part of a clip that RT posted on its UK YouTube channel.

I would say if you will not push back later.

Thanks from my loan.

I will have to push them back for you today is George Galloway laying out his perspective.

I want to hear Chris though weather whether it would be a symbolic act to pull the plug on RTE as a TV channel in reality most of its impact to come through YouTube and social media.

I mean it's not like there are millions of British people watching RT on television.

It's just you know the it has tiny audiences.

Like a lot of things it's voices amplified online you know things go viral their shared so that's a sign it off because of course it at the moment.

You know it doesn't have just know the YouTube or other digital platforms ITV2 tv regulations and the clip.

We just played with from artis YouTube channel isn't really the big decision.

He had not of Cornwall for Boris Johnson's government but actually once again for the big tech platforms to decide who they will and weren't allowed to publish definitely but it's it is also a government question because that's something that they are grappling with at the moment.

There is a desire to find a way whether it's Netflix and offensive Jimmy Carr jokes or whether it's YouTube and broadcast news propaganda.

There is a Desire monks British government to get tougher with digital platforms with regards to control.

A video content in the UK and us a subject we turn to many times on the media shown will do again to bring you back in Moscow because we know from the German experience that if you move against Russia today will be repercussions Deutsche welle was essentially kicked out of Russia what do you think what happened to you and your BBC colleagues if the UK government were to move against RTL quite clear packing my bags because there is a car battery for a ministry spokeswoman said repeatedly not just today the anytime the everyday anytime Ofcom brings up this device that Russia will respond if any measures taken against against Russian Media in the UK and really the thing is that she's Russia sees this as a political kind of dispute and even though UK politicians will be careful to say that Ofcom should be given the space to make its own decisions rather than have.

From from the government that's not how the Russian government sees this and they will see this as an attack on them rather than on any kind of creatures that are made.

What are the moment? It's a hypothetical but it's one that people in the UK and Russia already focusing on Francis car and Chris Curtis thank you very much indeed for joining us on the media show about privacy in the Press because there is also a connection between that and the broader issue of Media Freedom last week the Supreme Court prevented Bloomberg news and publishing a story on the grounds the Guardian has called this ruling a threat to legitimate investigative reporting the times as mentioned earlier was also critical now David Merritt your senior executive editor Bloomberg news.

Thank you for joining us tell us what the story was about.

Thank you for having me and unfortunately I can't tell you exactly what the story is about because I'm prevented you.

Prevented by the court ruling from giving out too many details for what I can say it was about an executive and senior executive at the UK listed company.

We are made to refer to him by the ruling is zxc.

We reported that he was the subject of a criminal investigation by a UK regulatory body again become specify which there are no fact that the disputed in that in that story at all.

Nothing libellous about that story we stuck to the facts and none of those were disputed but zxc sorting and how much was denied.

This is back in 2016 the story was initially published.

There was a trial in 2019 which you one if you want damages a £25,000 against and an injunction on the reporting we appealed that decision and in 2020 the court of Appeal upheld that first judgement and we took it then all the way to the supreme court and last week.

Judgement came down upholding that original decision and denying our rights to publish the story and what was the reason in the Supreme Court gave you for that.

I mean essential as a 50 page ruling that came with the judgement boiling it down ineffective.

He said that this individuals right to privacy trump the public interest in what he might not have been doing and of course you know we always look at a balance between someone's right to privacy and the public interest but in this case we felt that because he was an example of a publicly listed company listed UK companies so responsible for shareholders that that's our way the right to privacy and there is a vacation to Paris the story explaining your particular situation.

Let's look at the broader issues that this raises with Hugh Tomlinson QC who is represented a range of people.

In privacy cases some of them very high profile is also a leading figure for the Hacked Off campaign group which is pushed the better privacy protection and he we appreciate you coming onto the media show let me just read you from John micklethwait the editor-in-chief of Bloomberg news.

He says powerful people under investigation for criminal activity of just been given a path to keep their names out of Prince do you have equal reservations about what the Supreme Court said well? I don't of course powerful people sometimes try and keep their names out of print and use the courts but this protection which extends to everybody and if I could just mention one particular case I was involved.

Where are young man who was arrested completely innocent young man arrested over a suspicion of being involved in the Manchester arena, bombing he was named in the newspapers and as a result effectively his life was destroyed in fact.

He was only in he was released without charge.

Short time the police accepted that he done nothing at all wrong and this man's life was effectively ruined by publication of a police investigation arrest about him now and protection that the Supreme Court were talking about in this case obviously in every case the public interest has got to be balanced against the privacy rights of the individual I understand why you know the Supreme Court got it wrong but in the end.

We've got the judges on The Ultimate Arbiter's of the extent that the X the Guardian and other news organizations while this is always a balance the balance is skewing too far in the direction of privacy and that potentially compromise is journalist ability to hold people in power to account.

They would say that wouldn't they what's very interesting something that never reported in any of these newspapers is the last time there was a YouGov poll on the subject.

Percent of the response people who responded favourite pre-charge anonymity I mean that's a huge percentage on a public opinion and this has overwhelm public support and I'm afraid the newspapers of simply got it wrong.

They're out of line with what the public think and a disagreement on the broader issue on the outcome of that Supreme Court ruling let's bring a third person to our discussion Erica Solomon is with the ftc was right at the centre of a major ft investigation into the Axel Springer Kier group in Germany Erica thanks for joining us tell us about the peace.

You were working on and how you manage to publishing we work on a large investment compliance case surrounding abuse of power in consensual relationships at one of Germany's largest publishers.

Axel springer and the reason that we chose to focus on this company is because

Lot of your viewers over says may not know actually Springer now.

They may well do in the future.

I see spring has just bought clinical in the past year for a newly billion dollars and I'm making a big into English language and media a lot of people who know the CEO argue that he wants to become sort of the Next Generation Murdoch's of this is a very big company and a way that they handle a compliance case involving you know women who feel that they were mistreated by company standards and by the Editors we felt was an important thing to look at our investigation actually wasn't about the compliance case it was about how ceo's have executive dealt with the compliance case and how much they know and at the heart of this was the fact that you and your colleagues had seen private messages sent by senior staff at Springer did he doubts about publishing those?

We we went over that extensively obviously with a lawyer with the editor-in-chief of the publication are feeling there was there is case there was a compliance case in which the members of top executives of a company claimed ignorance about a situation when in fact we had a lot of information some of which we did not use we did actually withhold some of it for for the sake of people involved when we felt there was any shadow of a doubt and we also ran Everything by the company and Help Me Understand the process within the Financial Times you've a mast all this information you and your other reporting colleagues.

You're sitting there in front of I seen the the paper and your lawyers.

Tell me about the process that takes this from an investigation.

That is almost published and one which is.

Worst case you know you go along throughout the process with the sources who your most concerned about their safety and the protection and you have two first-order discuss with them.

How exactly what they're telling you were giving you will appear because they have to understand the consequences of what they do so we tried very hard to make sure that they've not only know what were using but what the potential impact will be the next Castlebar lawyers and then the editor-in-chief reads what we've already agreed with the employer or we think passes muster and then she give it another go through with the lawyer, so that's the story ft investigation David Merrick from Bloomberg you're listening to that I suppose what I'm wondering what listeners and viewers may be wondering is whether you are drawing too broad a conclusion from your specific experience with the Supreme Court maybe you have another investigation where you will be able to publish private details with a troubling thing is that the police all the acting on this today?

Midlands police B at the Boom bow case in an attempt to exclude journalist from a hearing and you know really this is sending a very strong message.

I think to anyone in power.

He wants to keep their name out of the press anyone with the funds across it so expensive to bring this sort of action.

There is a part of them to do then.

Just go back to what you was saying earlier, but we find that this man about this is the conflation of business activity with all the other things for which I think we would what's a support people's right to privacy and you mentioned that person whose life was ruined by that.

I'm ok.

So you business executives who represent publicly listed companies and responsible for money lots of listeners to this show will have funds invested in stocks and shares and people who have responsible for that money the public I think if cold and asked the same question whether they want to know if any of the people responsible for that money under criminal investigation and I think you might get a different answer.

Stop pulling you want to respond as I said before the best some strong public arguments in favour of the argument that really influence the court that hasn't been mentioned is that is that what Bloomberg worth dealing with highly confidential document which letter request to a foreign government or information and that was a effectively and illegally obtained that influence the court as well, but of course people in power need to be scrutinised and of course of course businessman in a need to investigate.

There's a presumption of innocence when you're arrested, it doesn't mean you're guilty Barry Austin people arrested and then it's decided not to proceed.

Very rarely reported with me if the if the decision is taken not received the trouble is that Stacey reputation has been real time and David and Hugh while you're focused on the ruling of the supreme court in the UK Erica you publish the story with huge ramifications in Germany but it was published by DFT is based in the UK I wonder how you compare the approach to privacy and to public interest in the two countries there is well.

Whenever you're disgusting a case you have to use the initials of members involved anybody who's being accused of a crime in the case of something that is a corporate miss doing so and there's a little bit more free and this was in a criminal case that we were looking at and so you know in Germany the response has been very much 1 of 180.

The story and the feeling that there needs to be more of a look at how media companies are handling complaints cases and so on but yeah, it's different from the criminal case and stricter than the UK and David s.

Also Bloomberg straddles many countries, do you see a difference in the different countries you operate him as there are advised me that this this case would have been in a lot of cold, but never have got that far of course.

You know we heard the prime minister earlier on in the programme talking about freedom of speech in this country, but it's different think clearly here, then it doesn't the US my thing in the last 50 years or so, you have seen a big drift and I think the British system is getting all and judgements and this last example is it is a prime case of this moving German model probably and further away from the American one way of course freedom of expression is in trying to be constitution and that is where we'll leave it.

Thank you very much for all of you fascinating listening to your

That was Erica Solomon Berlin correspondent for the ft.

David Merritt senior executive editor Bloomberg news Hugh Tomlinson QC a little earlier in the program.

We heard from Frances car from BBC monitoring and Moscow Curtis the editor of broadcast magazine the media show will be back at the same time next week but for now thanks for listening bye-bye.

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