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David Rennie’s Experiment

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Rennie has covered the cartoons’ war comprehensively, and continues to do so, at his Telegraph blog.

He is also asking readers to join in an experiment to judge the quality of his reporting on a matter that triggered a complaint from one fo the subjects of that reporting.

The original story began:

Plans for a European press charter committing the media to “prudence” when reporting on Islam and other religions, were unveiled yesterday.

Franco Frattini, the European Union commissioner for justice, freedom and security, revealed the idea for a code of conduct in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. Mr Frattini, a former Italian foreign minister, said the EU faced the “very real problem” of trying to reconcile “two fundamental freedoms, the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion”.

Frattini objected to Rennie’s account, and Rennie publishes Frattini’s press release in full and asks readers to compare the story and the press release.

This is a very interesting exercise in transparency. Find some time to participate in it.


Be sure to read the Frattini statement and interview which Rennie also posts.

I think Rennie may have inadequately explained Frattini’s hope for a code of conduct, because the article left the impression that it would be a formal EU code.

But the Frattini iniative is bad enough as it is, so Rennie was right to raise the profile of the proposal. Here is part of the Frattini statement:

“The Commission probably has to play a role as a facilitator, as an encouraging body, because freedom of expression is a private matter. Each and every journalist has the right to improve his or her capacity of expressing freedom. I do not see at all a [formal Commission] communication on this. I see a possible political result, for example, a European Deontologic Charter, approved by the press itself, with the facilitating role of the Commission.”

American papers with bureaus in Europe should absolutely reject participation in EU-sponsored or facilitated roundtables on press freedom or responsibility. The idea of any sort of a European Deontologic Charter on press conduct is absurd, and would inevitably become a bureaucratic swamp of the worst sort.

I have argued that the press needs to conduct itself responsibly during this long war, but governments should have zero role in “facilitating” that ethic.


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