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The People of “Secret Lives”: Merchants of CHAOS
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he problem with British journalism is a lot more serious than paparazzi invading the privacy of the rich and famous.

     If that were the extent of it, the demands for reform would still be justified. Yet the problem is one of wholesale abandonment of the concept that truth and accuracy are important.

     Over the past two years, Freedom has featured a series of articles on “ethics and the media.” Like many others, we have observed that “self-regulation” has failed. Legislative controls to force editors and publishers to act more ethically have repeatedly been recommended. By the same token, as a news medium in continuous publication since 1968, Freedom’s editorial staff have always appreciated Britain’s tradition of press freedom. So we have likewise been concerned that this freedom is under threat as a result of the industry’s own irresponsibility.

     As the voice of the Church of Scientology, we have also witnessed irresponsible reporting first hand. Channel 4 Television’s recent “Secret Lives” episode on the life of L. Ron Hubbard is a classic example. In this issue of Freedom we expose in detail some of the unethical procedures behind the production of that programme.

     But aside from what Channel 4 got wrong, it is also significant to note why its producers would so completely sacrifice their journalistic integrity in an effort to discredit the Founder of the Scientology religion. The answer is quite simple. They have no way of challenging the millions of people who happily proclaim that their practice of Scientology has enriched their lives, brought improved health and happiness, and helped them to achieve spiritual freedom. As a hatchet-wielding journalist, how do you deal with people who say, “I am very happy, thank you. My religion has helped me to improve every aspect of my life.” You can’t.

     And so they attempt to discredit L. Ron Hubbard. But as the recent Channel 4 effort shows, even in that they can do no better than exhume from their own clipping files, rumours which “responsible” journalists buried a decade ago.

     When Church representatives learned that Channel 4 was planning a show, they contacted the producers, provided documents, tried to arrange meetings—even followed one of Channel 4’s reporters half-way round the United States hoping to find an opportunity to respond to the biased allegations she obviously harboured.

     But this was all to no avail. They had no interest in having their story spoiled by facts.

     The Church of Scientology is fortunate in that we at least have the resources to speak up and ensure our side of the story is told. But, as you will read in this issue, this is not the case for everyone. Victims of hatchet journalism often have no recourse at all. Legal remedies are usually far too expensive, yet industry watchdogs have no teeth and, in the case of print media, rely on “self–regulation.”

     In this issue we explore some examples of the myth of media policing—and its consequences. We also examine proposed reforms and advocate some we feel should be embraced by both the new government and the media establishment if true, positive change is to result.

     I welcome your comments on the views and suggestions expressed in this special edition.

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