Without healthy, thriving newspapers and investigative journalists prepared to ask difficult questions of security services, the UK will move closer to a bona fide police state, British journalist Tony Gosling told RT.
RT: We often hear of journalists being intimidated for
the work they are doing in other countries, but Britain has so
far maintained a reputation of having press freedom. Is this
about to change?
Tony Gosling: Well it’s already sliding, isn’t it? I think we’ve seen over the last few months, particularly since this Snowden revelation, that there are divided loyalties. The problem particularly being that actually the Pentagon was involved in this decision, to make this arrest of David Miranda. A horrendous situation to be in, he’s got no access to a lawyer. He’s in, sort of, an extrajudicial area in the transit lounge of Heathrow Airport. So it seems to me the police doing the arresting at Heathrow should be thinking about who pays their wages. Is it the British taxpayer, or is it the Pentagon?
RT: The Guardian’s editor-in-chief said that officials forced him to destroy NSA data. Could he have reacted differently? And if so, what would be the implications of that?
TG: It’s extremely difficult for the editor of a big newspaper like the Guardian to take these people on because they do rely on them for comments and stories, as well...This is really important for the public to understand, when something like the arrest of David Miranda takes place, the effect is it actually discourages our newspapers and other journalists from doing their work. Particularly when you have situations like what happened on Sunday where they’re taking someone on long detention. Not only are specific bits of information being taken, but we also have to ask the question, “What is the story that would be going around the world today if they hadn’t made those arrests?” Of course they’re using the Terrorism Act to do this - Clause 7 of the Terrorism Act. We have to ask ourselves, “Is this person actually really a terrorist? Was this what the legislation was originally passed for?” Now if we don’t have healthy, thriving newspapers and investigative journalists prepared to ask the difficult questions of our security services, we’re moving closer and closer to a police state here in Britain.
RT: The Guardian says it’s been doing most of its reporting and editing on the NSA scandal from New York and not from London. Why is that? Does it mean that US laws for journalists are better than UK laws?
TG: Well you’re absolutely right. It’s in the US Constitution, the protection for the right of the free press. We don’t have such a thing here in Britain. All we rely on is the goodwill of the establishment over the years to make sure we do have a free press. And also, that’s plural press - lots of different outlets, lots of different voices, lots of different editors. This is putting that under threat, isn’t it? One by one, the bravest, most outspoken of the people - literally these are the public’s eyes and ears. They’re being stopped. They’re being covered by the police in doing things like this. Let’s remember what this is all about in the first place. Let’s not lose sight of that. What’s been going on here by the NSA, by the GCHQ, is the biggest, [most] illegal fishing operation in history. Massive amounts of data - personal and private data of individuals who are innocent, who have done nothing wrong - is being illegally collected by these organizations. We need to know why, who has done that. My personal opinion is that the people behind it, who authorized it, should go to jail.