A small victory for transparency: the House of Lords report on investigative journalism

The Lords' report on the future of investigative journalism takes note of Clare Sambrook's disturbing evidence on government mendacity.
Niki Seth-Smith
16 February 2012

While the Leveson Inquiry has been taking the spotlight, the Lords have been preparing a report on the future of investigative journalism.  Published today, it recommends changes to be made to the media industry and the law in order to secure the future of investigative journalism, at a time when the media landscape is shifting.

Our co-editor, Clare Sambrook, was one of the journalists called to give live evidence last October. In addition, she submitted a disturbing paper on official lying and how it harms our democracy, published here by the Lords, and on OurKingdom. Her argument: that systematic government mendacity is the greatest threat to journalism and our democracy.
The Communications Committee were always going to be resistant to this claim, and I saw for myself their dismayed expressions as Sambrook outlined the ongoing pattern of misrepresentation, distortion and denial by the government over the practice of child detention. But something clear and substantial got through to the report:

'We encourage the Government to lead by example in ensuring its press releases do not mislead and in particular, when data is made public, it is in forms which enable those capable of analysing it to do so, as advocated by the Open Data Institute.' (para 142). 

Not a key recommendation, but a win in the fight for openness and transparency in our dealings with the powers that be.

(There's also a very nice mention of openDemocracy's agility and global reach in para 227, with Magnus Nome's piece on the Norway massacre as an example.)

The full report can be downloaded here

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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