Liberal pressured over cartoons
You may recall editor of the Liberal, Ben Ramm, wielding the knife for Charles Kennedy just before Christmas. I knew him fairly well at university and he's a bright chap, although some disagree, but the story running on the Liberal homepage astonished me.
In short he meant for the organ to publish one of the Danish Mohammed cartoons which caused such offence during the "cartoon wars" and which continue to cause ructions. Yet he didn't, he pulled them, after Scotland Yard said it wouldn't provide him with police protection. Now I'm as vigorous a defender of free speech as anyone but I can't help but think his reasoning here, as betrayed by several questions he poses, just doesn't add up. Instead it looks just like another cheap publicity attempt for himself and his publication.
"Why, when we have been assured that the recent violent statements of demonstrators represent the opinions of only a small minority, have these extremists been able to effectively censor the press through threat and intimidation?"
Because you let them, quite simply. You didn't even publish them on your website, which now has gone so far as to not carry contact details of any shape or form, when this blog carried them since early on! There is a paucity of evidence anywhere of any direct threats targeted at the Liberal, and if it was mere fear of potential, perceived threats how could you claim a need for precautionary police protection? What's more, the mainstream media may have been effectively gagged but the blogging media was pretty rampantly free.
"What, exactly, does "finite resources" for the protection of journalists mean, both practically in the UK at this present time and in a healthy democracy at any time? (The French government's reaction to journalistic protection, for example, has been markedly different to that of our own)."
Yes, we should use our police to protect press freedoms, but with finite resources - which means there isn't a bottomless pit of money, not a concept with which I'd expect LibDems to be au fait - we have to prioritise. It probably means that until we think there's evidence of a direct threat we're not going to give you your own private officers. An argument which would, I admit, carry more water if the police weren't harassing shopkeepers over golliwogs...
I'm on the side of free speech. I ought to be on the side of the Liberal. Expecting the public to cough up, thereby restricting their own freedom to earn and spend money, in order to facilitate one publication of one item when there's no evidence of anything which would, in practice, restrict that publication seems a bit rich. Of course, it would be fascinating to see the bases upon which the police would give the magazine protection. Of course, that just might not make the Liberal's brave stand in such a shining light.