Someone seems to think they can shut me up

I am Orwellian, old labour, out of touch with the modern world, vengeful and seeking one rule for myself and other Politicians  who blog and Tweet, whilst simultaneously trying  to impose another draconian rule on newspapers.  Or so some would have you believe.

To show that I am not a worthy person to have opinions, the fact that I voted for the war in Iraq has been sighted, forgetting that every other Local MP did so too. My expenses have been raised again, along with the fascinating fact that I was unhappy with the headline in the local paper. Yes, I did seek legal advice.

“……..No one can shut you up Ainsworth” has been hurled at me. Yes, I am now, more often than not, referred to as “Ainsworth”. It is like being back in the playground. I have not yet been accused of advocating the slaughter of the first born but it will come.

What have I done and what am I saying to warrant this ludicrous diatribe from a member of the fourth estate?

First, I have used the libel laws to get settlement of a dispute with a newspaper.

Second, I advocate that the right of access to justice via NO WIN NO FEE protection should not be watered down. This is to ensure that others can get the benefit of the legal framework that I did if they are defamed in the future. This is not vengeful and those rights are being quietly watered down in Parliament now.

Thirdly, I have advocated the right to a prominent apology when someone is defamed. I don’t necessarily believe this should be on top of compensation. It could be used by the courts to mitigate all or some of the compensation due. But experience has shown me that no matter how strong your case you cannot get a decent prominent apology from a newspaper under the law as it stands.

We need a free and healthy press in this country.  After all, they are one of the most important guarantors of our freedom. But when an organ of that free press sets out to stifle and prevent debate rather than protect it surely there is something wrong.

My arguments may be wrong. But my arguments have not been attacked. I am being attacked for voicing them. Whatever happened to that Abe Lincoln principle “I disagree with every word you say but I will defend with my life your right to say them”.

It has been written that newspapers often give a better right of response than Twitter, I therefore look forward in anticipation to these thoughts being reported in the Coventry Telegraph, unaltered and with the same promenance with which I have been denounced. After that maybe we can get down to discussing these most important issues in a sane and reasonable manner.

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7 Comments

Filed under Coventry News

7 responses to “Someone seems to think they can shut me up

  1. Well now Bob, if you believe in people’s right of reply, as I do and the Coventry Telegraph editor does, then you will not remove this. If you really believe in proportionate corrections and/or apologies, you will not remove this either. Let this be a test of your resolve in applying the “Abraham Lincoln principle”.

    I am perfectly happy for you to exercise your right of reply in the Coventry Telegraph, as I told you last week in making clear you had a right of reply. I had added “can’t see anyone shutting you up” – in an abrupt style that for once matched your own on Twitter. You now misrepresent that line. Nobody is seeking to shut you up – fat chance!

    I know the editor also offered you a right of reply following your objections to another comment article of mine a few months ago.

    This is one fallacy of your argument. In my experience, people do generally get a right to respond in the conventional print media – letters pages, corrections pages, etc.

    In fact, your blog above is riddled with misrepresentation, falsehoods and inaccuracies of my article and tweets – which perfectly illustrates my key point I will come to. There are four inaccuracies in your first sentence alone.

    You have deliberately excluded any reference to me or any link to my article, even when a Tweeter requested one from you tonight. Therefore, if you are consistent, you will not remove my column repeated in its entirety below. People can then read for themselves what I actually wrote.

    My article had three main points. Firstly, any fair-minded reader would spot from the headline that the main thrust is about the rapidly changing world of digital media. We are all publishers now. In five years’ time, it is quite possible that everybody, including politicians and journalists, will be tweeting and posting video comments to hundreds, thousands, and in some cases, tens of thousands of ‘followers’.

    The current debate about press regulation misses this crucial point, in the fighting of old battles against an old media in decline. It would be a strange world indeed were any future impositions to apply only to the conventional print media.

    By impositions I mean the proposal to force apologies and corrections in a “proportionate” manner made by Labour’s shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis, proposals which received your broad support. His proposal was that this should include for “mistakes” and “inaccuracies”.

    As to err is to be human, freedom of expression for all of us inevitably means getting things wrong, or making statements that could be contested by another person – almost every comment we make, in fact.

    Given this, in a world where we are all publishers, where would such forced apologies and corrections leave us? Who decides what is an inaccuracy? What is a proportionate apology? As I stated within the confines of my column, ‘Where would this all end?’

    I said in my column I have no problem with righting wrongs. I believe if a seriously damaging wrong allegation is made against someone on a front page or to several thousand followers on Twitter then proportionate redress is necessary. But for every contested “mistake”/inaccuracy? Is it workable?

    You could not have a situation whereby there were continual demands for apologies on the front page, or page 2, page 3 and so on. You wouldn’t have a newspaper! In any event, as I say, the same principles would also have to apply to all of us as publishers using new media, including you.

    Second, I and many others believe there are real problems once politicians start interfering with an independent Press. It is almost inevitable if you scrap the current system of part-Press self-regulation (note, we are already heavily regulated by laws). What we are witnessing at the moment is politicians seeking to set the parameters for a new system of “independent” (yet statutory) regulation. An independent press is overwhelmingly in the public interest.

    That brings me to the third point of my article. It is in the public interest, fair comment and entirely accurate and relevant, to point out that you used your Parliamentary vote to try to block taxpayers from knowing what was on your expenses claims receipts.

    You also admit above to my point that you once threatened libel against my newspaper for a story I wrote, which you had conceded was an accurate account of how you maximised your ‘second home’ expenses claims. You threatened libel because you didn’t like the sub-editor’s headline’s mention of you ‘clawing back’ taxpayers’ cash. “I’m not an animal,” you said. BIt ridiculous reallly Bob.

    Both instances were attempts by you to gag the press in its pursuit of exposing matters in the public interest – of holding politicians and others to account for their actions.

    Your actions show you are not genuinely in favour of a free and independent press as you have been claiming recently – and certainly not when it involves any criticism of you. I do not believe, with this record of attempted censorship, you are a suitable person to make judgments about how the press should be regulated in future. That is to say, how the media should seek to balance freedom of expression, people’s right to privacy (which I also believe in by the way) and the public interest.

    It’s no good you melodramatically presenting yourself as some kind of victim of “personal malice”, and attempting to slur me, or calling my column a “ludicrous diatribe”. Ultimately, I’m really not hugely concerned, but you should allow a reply.

    My sole intention was not me v Bob Ainsworth. What I and other hard-working and ethical journalists care about is rational debate about press freedom and freedom of expression generally. What we see in the current climate are some baying MPs opportunistically pursuing an agenda which goes far beyond hacking (which is a criminal matter for the police).

    Finally, here’s my column again so your readers can see what was actually said….

    Tweeting and blogging politicians should be careful what they wish for with Press curbs
    By Les Reid on Oct 5, 11 09:37 AM

    SUMMER holidays and the tranquil autumn sun have not calmed some politicians’ lust to impose their will on the media they often despise.

    You can almost picture some by their poolsides cursing the timing of their summer hols – following the great humbling of Rupert Murdoch in the phone hacking scandal.

    Some used Labour’s conference to regain momentum in calling for more controls over a free press.

    In doing so, they sounded not just Old Labour, but Orwellian.

    Conservatives meeting in Manchester would have done well to highlight this, rather than making other exaggerated claims about a supposed Labour lurch to the left.

    Forget “Red Ed” – there was nothing left-wing about Miliband’s rightful call to restrict “predatory” fast-buck investors who cause boom and bust – even if he could not utter the B words which brought his predecessor’s downfall.

    I remember Gordon Brown cowering when I invited him to point out business leaders campaigning against a National Insurance rise as a “tax on jobs” had similarly opposed a minimum wage in 1997.

    His advisers told me they would rather avoid “Labour War on Business” headlines – of precisely the type generated last week.

    Last week’s row showed yet again how Punch and Judy politics distorts and exaggerates. Yet Tory chancellor George Osborne efffectively agreed with “Red Ed” by telling his party on Monday there are bad businesses which need regulating.

    Local Tories, Dan Byles MP and councillor Kevin Foster, also accepted under challenge from me that all parties could agree long-term business investment must be favoured.

    No, the real echo of Labour’s past came with shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis’s call for more “independently regulated” media curbs – from “striking off” journalists, to forcing newspapers to correct “mistakes and falsehoods”, and apologise in a form deemed by him to be “proportionate”.

    I have no problem with putting right wrongs, but you have to ask, ‘Where would this all end’?

    In seeking to settle old scores against the right-of-centre media (despite Murdoch’s former backing for New Labour), the modern world of digital communications seems to have passed them by.

    Politicians, including some Tories, should be careful what they wish for. We are all publishers now, including them.

    It would be absurd if any further impositions on newspapers do not also apply to anything published by politicians and others, including on internet blogs or social networking websites.

    Attorney general Dominic Grieve has already warned: “People who think they can use modern methods of communication to act with impunity might well find themselves in for a rude shock.”

    Ironically it was on Twitter that media-baiting Coventry Labour MP Bob Ainsworth backed the call for press sanctions.

    Contrary to his assertions, newspapers generally allow people a reply to what’s written about them far more than Twitter.

    Rather than using this right to reply, he has at times been among MPs preferring to use their Parliamentary votes to gag the press – on reporting their expenses – or rich people’s libel laws to harangue it.

    I remember Ainsworth threatening to sue this newspaper, even though he accepted our report about how he maximised his ‘second-home’ expenses had been accurate. It was the headline’s notion of him “clawing back” taxpayers’ cash that he’d objected to. “I’m not an animal,” he said.

    Further sanctions, argues Ainsworth, would encourage journalists to “do their homework”. Ironically, he had once joined MPs in voting for war in Iraq following a “dodgy dossier” about Saddam’s supposed “weapons of mass destruction” – which had plagiarised a student’s “homework”.

    With power comes responsibility for the media and politicians, but the tit-for-tat of party politics tends to distort the truth far more than most newspaper practices.

    Would politicians and others accept being forced to correct and apologise in a form deemed appropriate by others every time they distort the truth, made mistakes or are inaccurate? Who decides if they have?

    It could all become a very messy, unworkable and censorial incursion on freedom of expression.

    MPs are entitled to their views, and Ainsworth says the national press has “lied” about him on occasion.

    But it all hardly suggests politicians are the best judges of how to strike a balance between freedom of expression, people’s privacy and the public interest.

  2. Tom

    The political journalist at the Coventry Telegraph uses his position to pursue personal agendas with impunity.

    He gives Trotskyists unstinting and uncritical support, yet sees other elected politicians as fair game unless they are prepared to crawl up his backside (A Conservative councillor for Cheylesmore comes to mind).

    Avid interests in disability, state-pensions, higher-education and the Greek economy might cause one to look closely at his own personal circumstances to discern whether he can ever be an impartial correspondent. His choleric overreaction to the slightest criticism gives the game away nicely.

    Whilst his contribution discredits the newspaper, one redeeming feature of his amateurish copy is that (try as he might) he is unable to disguise his personal agenda. At some point the editor must “grow a pair” and replace him with a journalist who understands the meaning of “Accurate, fair and unbiased reporting”. At which point, the newspaper will rediscover its connection with its readership; they’re not stupid and his thinly-disguised preaching irritates many.

    Until that time, the CT will continue to look like a Sony Walkman in a iPod world.

    Tom

  3. Not even linking to the article you are dismissing does indicate that you are, if nothing else, out of touch with the medium you are using Bob.

  4. haha. Yes yes Tom Donnelly aka “Socialism Evil” – very good!! I and many other journalists – from the BBC’s Nick Robinson to the Coventry Telegraph editor – have heard your nonsense many times as you pursue your self-confessed and well documented very right-wing agenda.

    Our website moderators have had to block you because of your persistent personal abuse of journalists and editors which is not remotely based on evidence or fact. You get worse if people occasionally fairly respond to you.

    Bob, there’s a problem if your only support has come from this man.

    Yet you have censored and blocked reasonable comment in support of my view – one commenter has shown me the photographic evidence of what they tried to write on this website.

    This really all just serves to illustrate my points. If you don’t want to face further public criticism of double standards in correcting falsehoods, and giving proportionate rights of reply, you will today publish this reply today. I have made a record of this comment.

    Once again, you are invited to reply in the Coventry Telegraph.

  5. Bob Ainsworth

    I am now being harrassed by Les Reid via my mobile phone and this website having blocked him on Twitter. He says I am censoring comment to this article. I have only not posted one comment to this story and only because it makes allegations unrelated to the issue that may be libel. I am however going to Block Les Reid from my website if he doesn’t stop obsessing.

    If I can that is!

    Additionally he keeps saying I have a right of reply in the Coventry Telegraph. The Coventry Telegraph have my response to his article and have not printed it.

  6. Come off it Bob. “Harassed” is a very strong and unacceptable word.

    Therefore, I request you publish this very necessary correction now. I have texted you once, about an hour ago, to request you post my comment.

    I have only sought to post the two comments on this website that are posted above. That does not constitute “harassment”.

    It has been made clear to you that you have to submit your response to the Coventry Telegraph letters page.

    The fair comment I have been shown which you are blocking and censoring is not remotely libelous.

    Despite your calls for proportionate corrections, apologies and replies in newspapers, you are clearly not giving me a proportionate reply on Twitter, which you have blocked me from. You should practice what you preach.

  7. Bob Ainsworth

    Dear Les

    I have to draw a line. I felt I had to block you from my Twitter feed following unwanted interventions. I now want you no longer to ring me or text me. Please concider yourself an “unwanted caller”. I do not plan to post anymore comments from you on my website and will not seek a right of reply to your articles in the Coventry Telegraph.

    Should you write anymore articles about me I will post responses if I see fit. I will not seek a right of reply niether will I post one.

    I am trying to draw a line as I have better things to do. I hope that you do also.

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