COI Gazette – 25th November 2011

Front Page

Bishop Mouneer Anis with CMSI’s Partnership Coordinator, David Gough, at Newtownards last week

Bishop of Egypt, in Ireland, stresses importance of missionary partnership with CMSI

The Cairo-based President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, has told the Gazette that he regards the link between his Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa and the Church Mission Society Ireland (CMSI) as “a very important partnership”.

In an interview last week with the editor (audio details below), after the Bishop had addressed a CMSI meeting in St Mark’s Parish Centre, Newtownards, Diocese of Down, Bishop Anis said that the original CMS had brought Anglicanism to Egypt in 1800 and that today the importance of the link lay in shared prayer, exchanges of visits and the fundraising of CMSI to help with many aspects of his Diocese’s ministry.




Last July, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a two-part Inquiry into the role of the press and police in the phone- hacking scandal. The Inquiry will tackle issues surrounding “the culture, practices and ethics of the media”. Lord Justice Leveson, appointed as Chairman of the Inquiry, last week made his opening remarks at the start of the hearings. He took the opportunity of summarising how the proceedings will work in practice, giving the reporting target date as before the end of next September. He commented: “The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life. That is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?”

Two days later, the Press Complaints Commission came under fire as the General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet, told the Inquiry that the PCC has been “little more than a self- serving gentleman’s club”. She said that the PCC model, as it currently operated, “excludes both the producers and the consumers of the media output and represents only the owners”. It is, indeed, a voluntary, regulatory body consisting of representatives of the major publishers themselves.

The big question is just how to give the PCC greater powers to act as the guardian of the media’s best standards, without compromising the freedom of the press. The voluntary nature of the Commission is a strength – but only if the Commission really does its job properly. To improve its operation, the PCC’s membership should not be restricted to representatives of the industry; there should be others around the table who are independent of media interests but who know enough about the business and about the principles of best-practice journalism.

It is, nonetheless, worthwhile noting that there already are considerable checks on the press, quite apart from the PCC’s Code of Practice. There are laws. Phone-hacking is a crime, breaking and entering is a crime, and libel laws in the UK are strenuous by international standards. Quite what more the Leveson Inquiry could end up recommending, beyond a widening of the representation on a voluntary PCC, is difficult to see.

The Leveson Inquiry has identified three headline topics for consideration: (1) Culture, practices and ethics; (2) Standards; and (3) Public interest.

It is fair to say that pressures on journalists have become greater in recent times. The presence of round-the-clock broadcast and online news reporting has created this added pressure, along with, of course, the fact that fewer journalists are now doing the amount of work formerly done by a greater number. The dual pressures here arise from time considerations and the demands of commercial operation. There is nothing quite like ‘going to press’ to emphasize a deadline and, naturally, newspapers are businesses which must be profitable. Another issue to be borne in mind in this connection is the rise of the public relations industry. Because of pressures on journalists, PR firms or branches of organisations can be very effective in getting their message into the mainstream without proper journalistic scrutiny of content.

It is interesting to note that the Leveson Inquiry is particularly exercised about the teaching of ethics to those studying journalism – or, rather, a perceived lack thereof. As far as standards are concerned, those promoted by the PCC provide a good basic framework, but there are legitimate concerns about the content of much broadcast material, including wanton violence and explicit sex. To say, as many do, that broadcast material does not affect the public’s behaviour begs the question just why, if that is so, businesses spend vast sums of money on advertising. What people see and hear, whether broadcast or in ‘real life’, cannot but have the potential to influence them.

Regarding public interest, this often is rightly contrasted with what the public simply might find to be of interest. The public interest role of the press relates to free and democratic life itself. The press has the responsibility of holding those in authority to account and, without that, society is impoverished and freedom is threatened. Naturally, the press, like everything else in life, has its downsides as well as its upsides. It cannot always be a ‘win-win’ situation. However, take away a press that can pose a danger to government and one is into a whole new world that is far from enticing.

One of the questions the Leveson Inquiry is planning to consider is the extent to which the press can use ‘public interest’ as a justification for departing from established ethical standards. We do live in a world where choices have to be made, sometimes, between two evils. Such circumstances pose real moral dilemmas. Balancing ethical concerns with public interest is precisely a situation in which a lesser evil may have to be sought. It is just not possible to draw up hard and fast rules for grey areas. Human beings, however, have a God-given conscience and, when making difficult choices, conscience needs to be both informed and mature. Moreover, journalists who find themselves morally compelled to take risks in this area, of course, place themselves in a vulnerable situation.


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World News

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Columns and Articles

  • Focus on Connor Diocese – Karen Bushby, Diocesan Communications Officer for Connor, contributes this month’s Diocesan Focus Article
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  • Soap – Down at St. David’s – Patrick Towers
  • Musings – Alison Rooke – …and I did eat

Book Reviews

  • EVERY PLACE IS HOLY GROUND Author: Sally Welch Publisher: Canterbury Press
  • PRAYING THE DARK HOURS – A NIGHT PRAYER COMPANION Author: Jim Cotter Publisher: Canterbury Press; pp.201
  • FORGIVENESS IS HEALING Author: Russ Parker Publisher: SPCK; pp.179
  • FRANK DUFF – A LIFE STORY Author: Finola Kennedy Publisher: Continuum; pp.288

News Extra

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