The curtain comes down on News of the World

The curtain comes down on News of the World

Date: August 5, 2011
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End justifies the means. Here today, gone tomorrow. This has been the fate of a 168 year old British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch which bowed from the world stage in July 2011. There I was trying to just get a glimpse of the News of the World website. And the banner on that could as well have been shaped as a tombstone. Of course the Murdoch family wouldn’t just disappear from the spotlight just like that without making claims of being “the world’s greatest newspaper, 1843-2011.” Closing the newspaper would not kill the scandal, the story is still unfolding. They should ask those who have been involved in a scandal.

The recent phone-hacking scandal that saw the closure of the paper on 10 July is one incident that throws into the public sphere issues around access to information. Who has the right of access to information and how do they use that right responsibly? Again, don’t we need to redefine access to information?

As the News of the World bows out of the world stage, it is only fair as a concerned citizen to question this and get fellow citizens to probe freedom of expression issues. It is also a timely debate as African media experts are drafting a declaration that is aimed at improving access to information laws and will be adopted in Cape Town in September, needless to mention the draft model law on Access to Information for AU member states that should be adopted at the AU meeting in October.

It is all good when the journalists are spying on celebrities, sportspersons and politicians. But it really gets extreme when they spy on crime victims and families of dead soldiers. It was a clear abuse of a right that along the way caused mayhem and mistrust. How much of that right belongs to journalists and those who have power in society? How can we ensure that those who hold power and have use it right responsibly? These are some of the questions that we need to think about in Africa so that at the end of the day we craft laws that can enhance development on our continent.


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