The UK press is not known for its impartiality. Especially when it comes to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But the latest damning news about the mainstream media should worry us all; as we literally have six weeks to stop the press railroading the country into another Conservative government.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is a group of journalists that studies freedom of the press worldwide. It produces an annual ‘Press Freedom Index’ (PFI), ranking every country on the planet by how much governments restrict the media. And the UK has just plummeted in that index. For yet another year.
The colour-coded map shows countries by ranking. The darker the colour, the worse the PFI score:
A ‘serious threat’
Nordic countries lead the PFI. Norway is first, followed by Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. And ahead of the UK are three former Soviet countries: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Also ranking better than the British press were Costa Rica, Jamaica, Namibia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.
RSF says of the UK ranking:
A heavy-handed approach towards the press – often in the name of national security – has resulted in the UK slipping down the [PFI]. Parliament adopted the most extreme surveillance legislation in UK history, the Investigatory Powers Act… posing a serious threat to investigative journalism. Even more alarming, the Law Commission’s proposal for a new ‘Espionage Act’ would make it easy to classify journalists as ‘spies’ and jail them for up to 14 years for simply obtaining leaked information.
And on the state of the global media, the report warns:
Journalism worthy of the name must be defended against the increase in propaganda and media content that is made to order or sponsored by vested interests.
Gagging the media
While the Conservative government is trying to gag the UK press, it seems that the media is happily tying the gag itself. Countless studies have shown the bias of the mainstream press.
The New Statesman conducted analysis into the broadcasting of the EU referendum campaign. It analysed the main evening bulletins on Channel 5 (5pm), Channel 4 (7pm), the BBC, ITV, and Sky News (10pm). It found that 71.2% of the media’s political sources were from the Conservative Party. Compared to just 18.4% from Labour. But while this study only concerned the EU vote, other analysis shows the broader bias against Corbyn.
A report by the London School of Economics claimed the press had turned into an “attack dog” against Corbyn. It said 57% of articles in the press were critical of Corbyn, 74% distorted his views, and 56% did not give the Labour leader a voice at all.
Tories using media bias to their advantage
During the current election campaign, the Tories are also happily using the bias of the press to their advantage. As The Canary reported, the Conservative Party has already used a discredited BBC News report by Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg to smear Corbyn. In 2015, a broadcast showed Kuenssberg asking, in relation to the Paris attacks:
But if you were Prime Minister, would you be happy to order people – police or military – to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?
And it showed Corbyn replying:
I’m not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive. I think you have to have security that prevents people firing off weapons where you can.
But Corbyn’s answer to Kuenssberg was actually in a response to a different question. She had asked him about shoot-to-kill in general, not in the context of a Paris-style attack. After a viewer complained to the BBC Trust about this misrepresentation, the trust said:
But the Tories saw fit to use Corbyn’s now-invalid statement in their latest campaign ad anyway.
This is how the world ends
We are entering dangerous times in the UK. With the general election in full swing, the country is going to be talking about little else. And where will it get its information from? Mostly the mainstream media. The very same press that time-and-time again has been found to be biased against Corbyn, the SNP, and the Greens. In fact, biased against anyone but the Conservative government.
This has to end now. Or it won’t end well at all. Because with a compliant and submissive media, the Tories could again sweep to power. So the railroading of public opinion by the Tories and the press has to be cut off. Because otherwise, it’s every last one of us who will suffer.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election. If you don’t have a national insurance number, a 5 minute phone call on 0300 200 3500 will get it sent to you in ten days.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.
– Support The Canary if you value the work we do
– Read and support the work of independent outlets which seek to hold the powerful to account. Please add more that you like in the comments:
The Canary, Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia, Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, STRIKE! magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Meteor, Salford Star, The Ferret.
Featured image via The Canary
Since you're here ...
We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.