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News matters

July 11, 2011

I’m slightly cross eyed today from following twitter, watching the reputations of so many British institutions wobble in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

I’m not cynical about Britain. I’ve always found it slightly amazing to live in a country where you can jeer, cross examine and harangue a prime minister and survive. I like not having to dread passing a soldier or a policeman on the street.  And I love, love, love buying a newspaper and sinking into the news, and then buying another one and reading a totally alternate version. In Sri-Lanka being a journalist is high-risk profession. People are shot, kidnapped, disappeared, car-accidented for the most minor deviations from official lines.  One editor Lasantha Wikrematunge had been so critical of the government he wrote his own obituary. It was published after his assassination in 2009.

It’s easy to knock the media at the moment. We can live without the salacious gossip, the mendacious ways of gathering private, hurtful information. The money for news is drying up, and we all suspect we can learn anything we need to about the world from twitter, facebook or mumsnet.

We probably can, but a country with a free press also usually has the other stuff -a lively parliament, rule of law, peaceful elections, that sort of thing.  It’s worth hanging onto.

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