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Editorial: On Press Freedom Day we should strengthen the media of the resistance

THIS weekend charities and civil rights activists will mark World Press Freedom Day.

For journalists and media organisations, the day is used to highlight state persecution of media workers — though as the Morning Star’s international editor Steve Sweeney notes in today’s paper, political considerations affect which cases of persecution get airtime. 

Beyond the socialist left we are unlikely to see much solidarity with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose ill-treatment in a British jail and possible extradition to the United States for exposing war crimes shame our country in the eyes of the world.

Though any journalist treated in this fashion by the Russian or Iranian government would be held up as a prisoner of conscience, for most liberal media such acts of persecution only occur in rival or enemy countries, while the US-led “free world” admonishes them for their shabby behaviour.

When Western governments want to insinuate that a foreign election wasn’t quite respectable but shy away from direct accusations of vote-rigging, the term “free but not fair” is deployed, indicating that while individuals may have voted as they chose, the process was skewed by a media that overwhelmingly backed one side.

By that yardstick British elections in recent years have undoubtedly been “free but not fair.” The five-year bombardment that Labour endured from print and broadcast media from 2015 to the start of 2020 was relentless and departed from any semblance of fair reportage. 

The muted reaction to the more recent leaked investigation into the handling of anti-semitism complaints in Labour give the lie to any idea that the BBC or the Establishment papers were concerned about anti-semitism itself (or evidence that Labour HQ staff deliberately sat on complaints would have been newsworthy).

For the Westminster political and media elite, a socialist with a chance of becoming prime minister was a grotesque violation of the rules of the game.

Now that Labour is back in what they consider safe hands, their hope is that the Jeremy Corbyn years can be dismissed as a bad dream, the upsets to the received wisdom (that socialism is outdated and that the market economy is accepted by all grown-up participants in public life) written out of history. 

When Evening Standard editor and former chancellor George Osborne praised Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet appointments, he warned the Conservatives that the five years in which they had it easy with “no opposition” were over.

Yet the last five years saw successive governments repeatedly defeated in Parliament and the Tories robbed of their majority with the biggest surge in the Labour vote for 70 years. 

Sticking up for a historically accurate record of the last five years is not simply an exercise in nostalgia. The falsification of the narrative continues today.

When trade unionists called for a nationwide minute’s silence for front-line workers who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic, it took place appropriately on Workers’ Memorial Day, when our movement pays its respects to those killed and injured at work every single year. 

Yet the BBC managed to cover the wide observance of the minute’s silence without mentioning Workers’ Memorial Day at all, robbing the gesture of its class character and divorcing it from the actual reason we mark the day annually: that workers are routinely forced to work in dangerous conditions.

Ministers were let off the hook for their catastrophic failure to provide front-line workers with personal protective equipment and instead got to lead the nation in a dignified tribute to victims of a random virus.

Other papers will treat Press Freedom Day as an opportunity to criticise foreign regimes. But for socialists the role played by the monopoly media as a pillar of the social order is now clear.

We must fight to strengthen our own socialist and revolutionary media, especially the left’s daily paper the Morning Star, in order to challenge it.


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