Guilty until proven innocent

A BBC News headline on 22 April 2010 read: “Young woman raped in public park in Farnham”. It went on to say: “Detectives cordoned off part of a public park after a young woman was raped as she walked home from Farnham railway station early on Tuesday.”

On 5 November 2010 another BBC News headline read: “Woman jailed for false claim of rape in Farnham park.”

The story continued: “A 27-year-old woman has been jailed for 16 months after falsely claiming she was raped in a park in Surrey. Maria Brustenga-Vilaseca told police she was attacked in Borelli Walk, off South Street, Farnham while she was walking home from the railway station. Surrey Police said detectives found she had in fact been at a party in Addlestone and had invented the attack.”

The original BBC News report stated, as a fact, that the woman had been raped and attacked when in fact what was reported was a complete fabrication – as was her story.

It used to be the case that juries and judges established the facts in criminal cases, not journalists. The job of the latter has been to report matters as fact when they are proven and conjecture when they are not.

So here’s the question we should ask ourselves: When the BBC’s news staff go on strike, does it make any difference to our knowledge and understanding of the true state of the world around us?

Using the above as evidence, it isn’t a long journey to reach the conclusion that it might not. Could it be that the Corporation’s energies and resources, and our funding of same, should be diverted from news to productions such as Eastenders et al? At least its credentials with fiction are faultless.

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“Before we all sink into a slough of digital dystopian despair, it might be worth considering this: is this a sign of the strength, not weakness, of revelatory journalism in the digital age?”


Charlie Beckett, director of POLIS at the London School of Economics, reacts to news that the UK government forced the Guardian into destroying hard drives that contained information leaked by Edward Snowden.


(Source: POLIS)

 

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