A sad state of affairs

How ironic that on the very day that Pope Benedict gave a reminder to journalists worldwide regarding the importance of ethics in their profession, a story breaks about the BBC planting hecklers at a campaign meeting for the Tory party of Great Britain.

The Tories have made an official protest after the hecklers, who were given the microphones by producers, were caught at a party event in the North West last week. Guy Black, the party's head of communications, wrote in a letter to Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news, that the hecklers began shouting slogans that were "distracting and clearly hostile to the Conservative Party".

These included "Michael Howard is a liar", "You can't trust the Tories" and "You can only trust Tony Blair".

Mr Black's strongly-worded letter accused the BBC of staging the event "to generate a false news story and dramatise coverage. . . intended to embarrass or ridicule the leader of the Conservative Party". The letter said that BBC staff were guilty of "serious misconduct". At least one of the hecklers was seen again at a Tory event in the North East, Mr Black added.

Pretty pathetic behavior, but hardly surprising.

Last night, the BBC claimed that the exercise was part of a "completely legitimate programme about the history and art of political heckling" and said that other parties' meetings were being "observed". However, The Telegraph has established that none of Tony Blair's meetings was infiltrated or disrupted in similar fashion.

This is such a contrast from the words of Pope Benedict today:

He stressed the "ethical responsibility of those who work in the media, especially regarding the sincere search for truth and the defense of the centrality and dignity of the human person."

Displaying his linguistic skills by speaking in Italian, English, French and his native German, he said each journalist had to contribute to the common good.

They should also understand the effect the media's recent breathless development can have "on people's consciences and their spiritual outlook and in forming public opinion."

Not to mention the effect that the media can and often do have on election outcomes.

crossposted on bittersweet

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