Scaremongering serves only to aid The Guardian’s purpose

Criticism of The Guardian’s decision to publish details from Edward Snowden’s leaks about the actions of the NSA monitoring personal communications has come from politicians and the press alike. David Cameron spoke about the affair in Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday saying “I think the plain fact is that what has happened has damaged national security”. The PM also suggested that The Guardian had admitted that the data they held was compromising by destroying the files they possessed.

There was however no mention of the fact that those same files are backed up in locations around the world making the entire charade just that, a token effort to stop the press spooking the spooks.

Instead of criticising The Guardian there should be more support for a newspaper that has sought to expose what is a major invasion of privacy and betrayal of trust. This is particularly relevant with the now widely held belief that Andrew Mitchell should receive an apology and officers should face disciplinary charges in the ‘Plebgate’ row which is fast becoming a conspiracy. This incidentally, was brought to the public’s attention by media analysis – this time by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme.

But in some ways, at least politicians are consistent in their attempts to silence the press. The criticism from the Daily Mail was almost laughable. This is a newspaper that vociferously opposes increased regulation on the British press and defends an almost random and pretty pointless attack on Ralph Miliband as an exercise in free speech. This same paper then criticises The Guardian as the paper that ‘hates Britain’ for, you know, promoting a debate and exercising their right to free speech which actually goes beyond a hatchet job on a deceased academic and modern Britain.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles the defence of free speech is vital to democracy in this country. While the Daily Mail has a right to publish what it thinks about Ralph Miliband it also should recognise the importance of the work The Guardian is doing. Equally, even though the response to these revelations hasn’t been quite serious enough, especially compared to the MPs expenses witch-hunts, it could still emerge as a major concern in the coming years.

Despite the rampant hypocrisy, this all serves to support and strengthen The Guardian’s purpose. Instead of admitting where the government has acted suspiciously, a struggle has emerged between elements of the press and the government itself. By criticising The Guardian the government only serves to increase the suspicion that itself has more to hide and that some elements of the press fail to complete their obligations to scrutinise rather than simply comment.

In the long run this debate will aid journalism and people power; unfortunately for the government they are picking a fight on those they are accountable to.