Friday, December 5, 2008

When is it wrong to take photos?

Graham Young raises some interesting issues on his Ambit Gambit site about Labor MP James Bidgood taking pictures of a man threatening to set himself on fire outside Parliament House on Thursday. While Bidgood has been condemned by all sides for taking the photo and then selling them to The Daily Telegraph (the $1,000 went to a Multiple Sclerosis charity), Young argue that citizen journalism has been about citizens capturing events that the mainstream news media hadn't got to - the aftermath of the July 7, 2005 bombings on the London transport system are the most famous example.

Bidgood is an unlikely cause to champion. His recently announced beliefs that economic recession is somehow God's revenge may identify him as a religious nutter. And there is also the issue that he is an MP, not an ordinary citizen, and that perhaps he should not have ought to profit from the photos. But Young's point about whether it is the role of parliament to set rules about how others use the Internet and other media and to determine what are the universal codes of ethics is an interesting one. Indeed, the nature of ethical dilemmas alway relates to those who some would consider 'nutters' - if everyone was sensible and reasonable as defined by, say, Clive Hamilton, there would be little need to discus the relationship between ethics and rights.

Labor MP James Bidgood is in trouble for taking a photograph and selling it to a newspaper chain in return for a donation of $1,000 to a charity of his choosing. Perhaps I have a tin ear, but what has he done wrong? Or is this an extension of the principles that have led to the Net Nanny State?

Was the taking of the photo what is said to be wrong? Or was it selling (what he calls "passing") the photos to Newscorp for a donation.

If you read his statement to parliament, it is hard to tell. Here are his words:

Mr BIDGOOD (Dawson) (7.00 pm)—Mr Speaker, on indulgence: this afternoon at an event I took photographs of a serious incident. I later passed those photographs to a news organisation in return for a donation to charity connected to disabilities. My actions were highly insensitive and inappropriate. I am tonight writing a letter of apology to the family involved. I deeply regret my actions and I apologise once again for any offence that I have caused.

How can taking the photos be a crime?

The promise of the 'net, and the premise on which OLO is founded is that making the news, and analysing it, is not, and should not be, the preserve of professional journalists, many of whom have no expert understanding of the areas on which they report, and operate to commercial criteria which are frequently antithetical to good reportage.

For more read here.


Graham Young said...

What is it about you and Clive Terry? ;-)

Terry Flew said...

A type of leftist intellectual who is far too familiar to me, I'm afraid. The problem with the revolution was alway that the bourgeiosie would be overthrown by types like this.