12.5.04

PM may get to prove pictures fake but what they have exposed is far more real and far more worrying

Having mobilised massive military might to prove the Mirror's photos fake, Tony Blair and Geoff Hoon will (again) think it's not their fault and it was all down to that terrible Morgan chappy at the Mirror. Meanwhile Alistair Cambpell is pontificating from beyond the grave of his political career and taking up the mantle of the free speech mantra while blaming the press for the spectre of spin.

So Piers Morgan may be pushing the limits of responsible journalism to expose inhumane practices and politicians who remain in denial of anything that suggests their information is less frontline than the journalism that upsets them, but thankfully someone is.

Tabloid turncoats may be trying to call time on Morgan's reign and the Mirror's domination of the headlines but they are missing the same point as our displeased politicians. All is not well in Iraq, our soldiers face torment and some of their captives torture. This is the backlash of war and no desert sandstorm or political spin is going to gloss over this.

If the effort the Ministry of Defence and military investigators have put into discrediting the authenticity of a Bedford truck had gone into policing their troops on the ground we might not be facing these issues. It is they who have failed not just their captives but also their soldiers and their public.

So before the politicians point their fingers at the press they should take stock of the story and face up to the facts. The picture the Mirror printed may prove to be fake - but only insofar as what it depicted was staged. The facts remain the same and it is these facts that it is the duty of responsible journalists to expose. News stories are made up of both and as Lord Hoffman, giving judgment in the Campbell case, recognised in the House of Lords last week "From a journalistic point of view, photographs are an essential part of the story. The picture carried the message, more strongly than anything in the text alone, that the Mirror's story was true". You can only carry out so many checks on pictures but there is no denying that the story that accompanied them was true. It is time to recognise this and shift the debate to what is going to be done about this.

The situation in Iraq remains an unpalatable mess that no vote-winnning war of words or revenue-generating headlines are going to clear up. The Hutton Inquiry may have exonerated the Government from the charge that it misled the country when it took us to war, but with that political and military battle won the fall-out is not going to be as easily whitewashed from our front pages.

No comments: