We live in the media age. We have permanent access to rolling news, something happens in Australia at 1:00, it could be being reported in the UK by 1:05.
I think we have a responsibility to keep up with the ongoing events in the world, as so many of them affect us either directly or indirectly.
I am possibly one of the most opinionated people I know.
And as such I have decided to create a platform for those opinions.
Today a man was jailed for twelve weeks after posting
offensive jokes about missing April Jones and Madeleine McCann on Facebook.
The twenty year old was arrested on Saturday night for his
own safety after a fifty-strong mob turned up at his house with baseball bats.Interestingly though, none of the mob were
For me this is not about the inappropriateness of posting
offensive jokes on social media. The issue here lies with freedom of Speech,
and the message that sending someone to jail for exercising their right to that
freedom of Speech sends.
Twitter, Facebook etc. are full of offensive material which
is passed off as jokes.Go into any
comedy club in the country and you will find the most distasteful jokes imaginable,
most of which are made at the expense of other people.The elderly, men, women, the disabled, dead celebrities,
and apparently missing children.When it
comes to humour, pretty much any topic is fair game.Many of them are crass and distasteful, deeply
offensive even, and would not be considered funny at all by the vast majority
of people. We have the right to be
offended at the jokes that others make which are considered distasteful or
offensive, and we have the right to voice that disapproval both to the
individual concerned and even publically if those jokes are made on a public
But surely it is a slippery slope when we start prosecuting
people for making jokes which are considered distasteful?After all, where do we draw the line? what to
one is offensive, may not be to someone else, and vice versa, and even if
something is considered to be universally distasteful, does it make it worthy
of prosecution purely based on the offense caused to others?
There is no question that posting so-called jokes about
missing children is distasteful and offensive in the extreme.But then I feel the same about posting jokes about
people with learning difficulties, severe disabilities etc.There are several well-known comedians who
have a reputation for being deliberately offensive.Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle, Ricky Gervais all
have reputations for making the most distasteful jokes imaginable, people
actively boycott their shows/appearances on television/publically express their
distaste on facebook, twitter and even in the media.Yet we don’t hear calls for them to be
arrested and jailed and rightly so.Because while distasteful jokes are offensive to many, those making the
jokes still have the right to do so, and once we start taking away people’s right
to make distasteful jokes, where do we then draw a line?
In this country we regularly speak out about people being
jailed in other, less liberal countries for daring to express opinions which we
have the freedom to express here.By
jailing people for posting offensive jokes on Facebook, it is just a slippery
slope towards eroding our ability to exercise freedom of speech.
Matthew Woods was an idiot.If he was posting such tasteless jokes on my Facebook newsfeed or
twitter timeline I would have no hesitation in unfollowing him.But that doesn’t mean I feel he should be
sent to jail, after all, we all have the ability to offend someone at some point
or other. Should we all be careful what
we post in case it offends someone and lands us in jail?
We have the right to freedom of speech in this country.That includes the right to express our
opinions over other people’s distasteful comments made in the name of humour.We need to ensure we retain that freedom of
speech, and applying prison terms to people who do so is going down a slippery
slope to removing our right to that freedom of speech.
Yesterday Sky News reporter Kay Burley sparked complaints after
revealing live to a volunteer in the search for missing five-year-old April
Jones that this was now a murder enquiry and then asking her how she felt.
Previous to this, Burley had said a few days before that Sky
had a development which viewers would be excited about, before going on to
interview the estranged son of a man currently being questioned on suspicion of
April Jones’ murder.
Kay Burley’s tactlessness is already well documented, from
incidents such as her interview with Peter Andre, where she queried how he
would feel if Katie Price’s new husband might want to adopt his children, to an
interview she conducted with the wife of Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright, in
which she asked, “do you think that if you’d had a better sex life, he wouldn’t
have done it?”
Journalists are generally not known for their tact or
sensitivity, although it would appear that Kay Burley has a particular skill
for asking the most tactless and insensitive questions imaginable at the most
However, I can’t also help wondering whether the public’s
desire for rolling reporting of news events fuels the need for the Kay Burleys of
When a serious crime happens, Sky News are there, reporting
every detail as it happens, when it happens, regardless of whether it has been
verified as being true or not.Truth and
speculation are intermingled and after watching about twenty minutes of a
broadcast it can be impossible to know which are the actual facts of the case
and what is speculation handed to reporters by members of the public, many of
whom are often seeking their five minutes of fame.
And where there is Sky news there are the millions of viewers
who watch it, taking in every detail and speculating about it all amongst their
close friends and family.
Whether we like it or not news has now become the new
entertainment.It’s almost like reality TV,
except the participants are real people who didn’t actually apply to be there.
Yesterday hundreds of complaints were apparently made to Sky
News and Ofcom by outraged viewers, and #sackKayBurley was trending on twitter.But today I don’t imagine those viewers will
have switched news channels to the BBC in their outrage.Some will, some won’t, and some new viewers
will even go over to Sky to go and have a look to see what it’s all about.
Broadcasters should have a responsibility to broadcast
actual news in a sensitive way while at the same time still being informative.However we as a society also surely have a
responsibility to remember that the news is actually someone else’s life, which
we have been given an insight into purely because of the factors that have
brought them into the news in the first place, and not entertainment fodder
created by the broadcasters for our own edification.