Category Archives: Blog

Our third birthday and a year of growth

Tomorrow marks its third birthday today with continued growth and new readers – but there’s much more work ahead.

Three years on from reporting our first story (and five since claiming the url), we are pushing our principles and covering an ever greater array of subjects and corners of the globe. We have added an athlete in residence to our artist programme, carried out our first investigation and began coverage of immigration courts and tribunals.

Make a wish

Can websites make wishes? “Do androids dream of electric sheep?”

Since the start of 2015, Tomorrow has had 5,500 unique pageviews, with an average read time of 2.02 minutes and a bounce rate of 77.46 per cent. Compared to the same period in 2014, unique pageviews are up 21.19 per cent, read time is steady and bounce rate is an 8.47 per cent improvement.

Our third year compared to our second showed a 22.63 per cent rise in unique pageviews up to more than 10,300 and a bounce rate improvement of 7.65 per cent.

Despite the growth in readers, this has not translated to comments on stories, suggestions for news to pursue or donations to fund our efforts. So we must keep pushing to convince any member of any community, story by story, that news has value, and that Tomorrow’s contribution to quality content and commitment to ethical principles makes us worth supporting.

News builds community, as our tag line says, but we need the community to build it with us. We have exciting and daring stories planned for the months ahead so do please keep reading and watching and engaging.

657 world destinations that tried to hack this website in 48 hours

There are some remote corners of the planet with great communities and fascinating stories.

They are also home to computers and servers, and over the 48 hours of June 18 and 19, they were used to attempt breaking in to Tomorrow.

Our web security blocks the IP address for a period after three attempted logins. But throughout these two days, an individual or system tried to get in at times every two to five minutes, using IP addresses predominantly around Russia to base their attacks.

With 219 blocked IP addresses at three login attempts each, that’s 657 attempts. None was successful.

But we thought it would be useful, in the spirit of openness and transparency, to show what this attack – which is still ongoing – looks like.


View 657 hacking attempts in a full screen map

There is no identified reason why Tomorrow is receiving this attention, but most online attacks are simply because they can.

Internet security is something all individuals and organisations have to be aware of, constantly.

Tomorrow knows this from experience – we were hacked in late 2012, replaced with various selections of propaganda and it took months to rebuild. Their access to the site was because, admittedly, there was a silly username of “admin” – never do that by the way – and someone could get in. Lesson learned, security improved.

Tomorrow hacked

Screen grab of Tomorrow in December 2012 after being hacked.

Tomorrow hacked

Another part of the Tomorrow homepage in December 2012 after being hacked.

But few if any website or organisation is immune and we keep working to ensure Tomorrow keeps going. If you would like to help us stay on top of security advances, do please consider a donation.

In the meantime, check out some of the world’s most used IP addresses.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Reporting – its training and its practice – for indigenous peoples must change

THE Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools in Canada has implications for Tomorrow as a news organisation.

Tomorrow has reported on indigenous peoples before and will again. But amongst the 94 recommendations of the report, one in particular relates to the media:

We call upon Canadian journalism programs and media schools to require education for all students on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations.1

As directing editor of Tomorrow, I can say this site endorses the recommendation without question. I did not have any substantial education on these subjects at any level of schooling, nor during post-graduate journalism studies in the United Kingdom. I have since been educated in most of the areas referred to, through the interviews conducted and research carried out. I had to seek out that education because it was not offered. Self-education will always continue.

And that is one extension Tomorrow would add: education can’t be limited to journalism schools. It must continue throughout careers. No reporter in any field should avoid reporting indigenous issues. And specialists in indigenous reporting should not be used as an excuse for others to avoid the subject or building contacts. Similarly, the other media recommendations relate specifically to public broadcaster CBC and independent broadcaster APTN. The points made could and should easily apply to any media outlet.

Tomorrow’s 10th core principle is to educate and entertain. The first part of that applies to us as a news organisation – education must always continue because that is the only way to ensure we meet the 11th and last principle, to promote responsible debate and mediation. Those are not possible without knowledge, which requires observation and engagement (principle 9).

These principles are always related anyway, but this week they particularly apply to the recommendation of the TRC report. It is entirely justified under our core principles and we commend it to all journalism schools and to any reporters who may work for us in future. We will also recommend education on the topics to our athlete and artist in residence going forward.

Reporters must maintain a degree of impartiality and independence from inquiry reports and conclusions, so we can effectively challenge how they will be taken forward or whether they are implemented at all. But when those conclusive fingers point squarely back at us, we must address them.

Tomorrow encourages all engagement on how best to ensure our core principles are met for the TRC recommendations, for indigenous peoples, and for any community.

  1. Page 10 of the “Calls to Action”. The report and documents can be found at the TRC website.

Immigration courts – are we blind to justice?

US Court House in Philadelphia

The United States Court House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Immigration Court for the city sits. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

TO paraphrase a US government representative, immigration courts might appear to be a great deal of boring admin, but the future of where people live the rest of their lives is hugely important.

The systems that make decisions about future lives in thousands and tens of thousands of lives every year should be some of the most watched and monitored of any country. They are the opposite.

I have now reported on the judicial or quasi-judicial systems for immigration in three countries – the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. They differ in many ways but are consistent in being ignored by reporters, sometimes with a dangerous and highly dubious deference to the governments running the systems. That is a fundamental clash with Tomorrow’s core principles and is the reason for our recent coverage.

Canada’s system is a near absolute failure in being open to any scrutiny.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada hearing offices in Toronto, Ontario.

The Refugee Protection Division is designed to be private by default. Anyone can apply to observe a case but it must be done in advance and then get approval of all parties. I was told at the front desk on floor four of the tribunal hearing offices of 74 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, that even the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) would have to apply in advance. According to 11 pages of government legalese explanations of just the differences between public and private hearings that would be enough to deter any potential visit, only the government’s own immigration officials can attend at any time. That means the system is not only secret, it is beyond even international spot checks.

Similarly, at the end of a full day attending public Immigration Appeal Division hearings, the press officer for the overarching Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada appeared a couple seats away from me and introduced himself after the hearing. He pointed out reporters tell them before attending, just as the US immigration court system “strongly” recommends on its website that reporters notify the press office before attending.

Informing one side in even a tribunal system that the press will attend is a fundamental breach of our core principle of independence (#3) and is a deference to government that would not happen in almost any other context.

Would you expect a food inspector to announce a spot check of a restaurant? The cleanliness can have life and death consequences. A court system or quasi-judicial system making decisions about the future lives of the same human beings who might go to that restaurant. To trust the system is functioning without ever bothering to report on it is a dereliction of duty on the part of the media who know full well that “justice must be seen to be done”.

In the case of Toronto, the following media outlets are nearby (distances in a straight line according to Google Maps):

  • CityNews – 567m
  • Toronto Sun – 948m
  • Toronto Star – 1.01km
  • CTV – 1.05km
  • CBC – 1.08km
  • Globe and Mail – 1.76km
  • National Post – 2.3km

I have found no stories of their attendance at cases in the past year, but welcome any correction to that fact should they offer it.

In terms of openness, Philadelphia courtrooms had generally open doors with appointed judges and the names of individuals appearing on display in the waiting room, regardless of the type of case.

In Toronto, a quasi-judicial, administrative tribunal system, doors are closed whenever cases are on and you could only find out names by asking at the front desk. Any case involving refugees, even if the government were to argue that the person could safely return to their country of origin, cannot be disclosed. That is contradictory and hints at a scrutiny that should be provided into how the Canadian government is assessing the legitimacy of refugee claims and threats they may or may not face.

So while a reporter could almost always sit in on testimony from a rape victim even though that person’s identity would never be revealed, an identical case within the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada system would be blocked from any scrutiny other than that of the very government deciding the legitimacy of the case.

And make no mistake, Tomorrow has the firm principles of being a safe harbour and comforting the afflicted so this is not about identifying people at risk. This is about seeing how they are treated by a country that proclaims to be a beacon of human rights and freedoms. Surely one of the greatest tests of that is to examine how the government treats those claiming sanctuary after following that beacon through the darkness, to examine the effectiveness of counsel for refugees, to seek out the holes in support systems for refugees and all the other elements that cross paths in these small administrative rooms.

Reporters are not testing these systems enough, they are showing deference to power, and justice is not being seen to be done.

I hope through Tomorrow’s recent coverage – and this will in no way be the end to it in years to come – that I am not only meeting this site’s core principles but am also explaining why they matter and why these immigration courts and tribunals matter in civic society and modern reportage.

Charlie Hebdo: What it means for Liberté

#JesuisLiberté

I once asked a friend, in a moment of frustration, why I do this job.

“Because you’re an artist Tristan,” she replied.

For many in journalism, the attacks at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo crystalised both the question and answer. Why on earth would we do a job in which we could be killed? Because that is the job and that is what we do.

When reporters, journalists, cartoonists or others in the media are killed while doing their jobs or because of what they have published or reported, the question and answer don’t sit easily or comfortably with each other. As proud as many of us are to be in journalism, we are also risk averse. The vast majority of us would like to think we could be war reporters, but only a very few brave souls actually do it. Very few will run into a war zone to ensure the world sees what’s happening. Those individuals have my personal and professional admiration without question.

The staff of Charlie Hebdo knew what they published was controversial – they had been creating content that pushed the envelope for decades. Satire is always contentious because it holds a mirror, even better than traditional news reporter, to the powerful and privileged. Satire achieves what is Tomorrow‘s fifth core principle: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the complacent. The complacent are those in power, and the public who choose not to question that power. In that sense, the publication, whether you agree with it or not, was both brave and met a core foundation of this profession. And even if it was contentious or even offensive, that would not and could not justify murder. Ever.

But there are difficult questions this appalling crime has left with the wider media, both in France and beyond. Should media republish the original offending cartoons in solidarity? What pictures of a terrorist attack or crime are reasonable, responsible or appropriate for publication and broadcast? What limits, if any, are acceptable on freedom of expression?

Liberté

Newspaper journalism depends on Liberté.

Freedom of expression is Tomorrow‘s first and most important core principle. Everything we do in this profession is done because we have the inalienable human right to freely express ourselves. Some people in the world – both nation states and individuals – don’t recognise such a freedom as a first principle, or they put such extreme limits on it that expression is not truly free. It has been repeatedly quoted in the aftermath of the Paris attack, but Voltaire’s line (which was actually by Evelyn Beatrice Hall), “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, is correct. As an individual, as a reporter and for this website as a whole, I will defend the right to free expression.

Similarly, many comments on social media have used the hashtag “JesuisAhmed”, to refer to Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack, who defended the magazine’s right to speak, even if it insulted his faith.

But, many have also pointed out the condition on free speech, that “you can’t yell FIRE in a theatre”. True. And that leads me from core principle 1 to principles 8 and 11.

Be a safe harbour for the public and staff (8) is the principle that put police protection on the staff of Charlie Hebdo. And it is a sad reality of the world that many publications require significant levels of security because of what they report. Too many reporters, photographers and others died in 2014 doing their jobs – 96 in total1 – increasingly targeted in war zones because it grabs headlines. News organisations have a duty to report, but we have to balance that with protecting our staff to make sure they are alive to report another day. I believe firmly in openness and would like news organisations to be in far more open architecture for public access and engagement. But, the reality is that reporting can result in violent criminal reactions. It is a very difficult bargain to strike.

Promote responsible debate and mediation (11) has a key word and perhaps the most challenging for this entire debate: responsible. Consider the front pages of world newspapers after the Paris attack. Some offered cartoon tributes. Many used the image of the murderers about to shoot the police officer lying injured on the ground. The image was a still-shot from a video graphically capturing the crime and a handful of publications pixelated the officer’s face. Was it right to run the image or cover the man’s face? Are we protecting the victim by doing so? Or are we sparing our “western world” modesty?

The blunt fact is that war reporting, particularly from the Middle East and Africa, has rarely held back on the descriptions or photos used. Did media give the same coverage to the reported 2000 killed in a massacre by Boko Haram2 as to the Paris attacks at the same time? Why did we want to know everything about one and not about the other? The injured and dead are victims we will never know. It took nearly three years for the western media to identify the women executed in an Afghanistan football stadium – she was Zarmina, murdered on November 17, 1999.3 Up until then, the images were used to support the narrative that governments needed to intervene against Taliban barbarism. There was no need to “respect” the human victims involved. A large part of news media maintains a view that “the West” is somehow more civilised, liberal and mature than “other” nations.

But let’s say it’s important to show the horrors of war and the threats to innocent civilians. Tomorrow‘s fifth principle states “comfort the afflicted”, and that is most certainly present in war reporting. If we freely account those conditions and events and run their pictures, then we should not hold back in “the West” simply because the victims are local, or “like us” or, perhaps most frequently, white.

At the very least, when we choose not to run some photos or videos, we need to ask why in one case and not others. And I would argue we need to explain and justify those choices. Photos and videos of events, such as terrorist attacks or crimes, are part of accurate reporting. They must contribute to that. There will never be a universally correct answer because each story each event is unique.

In some commentary, and public reaction, to the Paris attacks, there has been the assertion the media should “ditch its love affair with narratives, and stick with the truth”,4 ie that the criminals were terrorists and Islamic extremists. It is, of course, laughable such comments themselves are not part of a narrative.

It is always right to question how a government defines criminal acts with catch-words or phrases. Is it terrorism? A “lone wolf”? A case of “mental illness”? What is the purpose for their word choice? And the media should be questioned as well as to how and why we choose certain words. The “truth” is that an event happened, people died, other people were responsible. From those base facts come competing narratives and interpretations. That, in turn, comes back to the importance of having freedom of expression.

And that brings us back to the original cartoons and content of Charlie Hebdo and others. Again, nothing they did could ever justify murder. But a wider problem today, with the ability for anyone to react instantly and websites being rewarded for the most inflammatory content possible, is that everything is offensive to someone. A fear of offending an individual or group might give pause to the selection of words in a story. But a fear of offending an unknowable “anyone” somewhere out in the universe at some unknowable time will inevitably lead to self-censorship.

Can reporting function in a pure and unbiased fashion if there is a fear of blame, a fear of consequences, of reaction? No, because we don’t know what the offended unknowable “anyone” will do in retaliation. Plenty of columnists might suggest what may happen next, but, and here’s the big secret they don’t want you to know, they’ve no more idea than the rest of us.

Information imparts us with knowledge allowing a certain foresight of imagining where actions might lead. Shooting a gun is going to result in death. Those behind the Paris attacks knew their actions would have that consequence. The writers, journalists, cartoonists and police defending them knew the magazine could and would offend, but they could not reasonably deduce – even after the past firebombing of the offices and death threats – that the consequence of their work would result in death. And death should never be a consequence of free speech and expression, however hateful or odious or offensive to an unknowable “anyone”.

Journalism that questions, that comforts the afflicted and afflicts the complacent, that observes and engages, must not have limits. No individual or group or government or religion should be beyond reproach. This is the reason why freedom of expression is the first core principle of Tomorrow‘s journalism – without that starting point, how can you question all the other rights we may or may not have as individuals or within states? If satire meets those demands as part of journalism, then nothing can be off limits. Nothing.

Monty Python’s The Life Of Brian film was once banned for offence to some Christians. There were protests, but nobody died as a result of the film, true. The media, and their narratives, helped establish that the film was offensive by interviewing the correct voices to fit the narrative. Did fans and supporters of the film require all Christians to apologise for the censorship and bans? No. The definition of satire changes, those who are offended change and the media’s reporting of and response to that offence changes.

And so, if Tomorrow, at some point, has a satirical section, and is presented with something that may cause offence but meets the tests for our journalism, then we would run it. And, as it states in our comments policy, we would allow any reaction from named (not anonymous) individuals. That is how I show solidarity with journalists who are challenged, threatened and murdered, by asserting how I will test and publish potentially contentious content. I don’t need to run past cartoons, out of context and separated from the complacent at whom they were directed, to prove the importance of free expression.

If you want to question that, principle one asserts you may. And, when someday Tomorrow is in a position to do so, I will go in front of a citizen jury and defend what Tomorrow publishes and the reactions.

So yes, #JesuisCharlie, and #JesuisAhmed, and most importantly, #JesuisLiberté.

Creative Commons License
#JesuisLiberté by Tomorrow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

  1. Reporters Without Borders report for 2014.
  2. Amnesty International reports, as covered by some news outlets.
  3. Copy of original published by the Daily Mirror in 2002.
  4. National Post columnist.

This post is about Katie Hopkins so you click it

Phone Stop World, by Jason Skinner

“This piece speaks to the ability of mobile communication technology to completely engulf us, block out the hustle and bustle of the world around us and entrap us in a situation that could be miles away. The figure in the piece has a sad/upset look on his face as he stares into his phone, meanwhile all around him the world wizzes by.” – by Jason Skinner, Artist in Residence. Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported

At the start of a new year, it may be useful to offer a minor lesson about how the web works with news organisations.

It’s possible you haven’t realised this, but when a website chooses headlines such as “You won’t BELIEVE what happens next!”, that is designed to make you click the link because you genuinely want to see what happens next, regardless of the source of the information. That is called clickbait.

News vs journalism

Artist in Residence Jason Skinner is exploring the difference between “news” and “journalism”, where news can sometimes just be a fragmented, quick summary, limited by particular mediums, versus the whole picture that journalism can offer.

Similarly, SEO (search engine optimisation) means that news organisations title news stories about Oscar Pistorius and not Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he shot and killed, because people know and search for the name of the criminal, not the victim. To do the opposite relies on a smaller number of people who will avoid the headline leading with the shooter’s name and instead choose the victim. News organisations are required, by the power and dominance of Google and its algorithms, to code news with that slant and manipulation.

When you click on the headline designed to bait you, you encourage more of the same headlines.

Let’s say, for example, that a UK resident named Katie Hopkins tweets something. Ms Hopkins creates the tweets knowing that news organisations report them. News organisations report them because they know the public will click the links and share them. And then the cycle starts again.

Ms Hopkins, we presume, makes money from TV appearances and articles in papers and magazines that, in turn, get readers because many members of the public like to get riled up. Commercial news organisations make money from the web traffic that readers provide them, which in turn gets paid to media constructs such as Ms Hopkins.

Tomorrow does not report on a media construction such as Ms Hopkins. That is the choice of a news organisation. But if everyone is clicking on stories about what Ms Hopkins tweets or states, does that mean Tomorrow should report it?

Tomorrow has a duty to educate and entertain, to balance both needs and desires. But do you, as readers, expect that entertainment means what you will click on, knowing full well it will enrage you and push your buttons? If you know that the media is manipulating you, does that mean they should continue to manipulate you because you’re not clicking away?

Readers, consumers and the public have a choice. Human nature does make all humans vulnerable to choosing what attracts us, like dazzling sparkles catching the eye.

To quote the film L.A. Story, “the best thing to do is, right before you go out, look in the mirror and turn around real fast, and the first thing that catches your eye, get rid of it”.

So, in 2015, the bits of “news” that catch your eye because news organisations are manipulating you to notice? Get rid of them.

Choose reporting, choose Tomorrow.

Web stats 2014: Tomorrow pageviews up 44 per cent

OUR web stats for 2014 show a 44 per cent rise in pageviews and unique pageviews, as well as an improvement in bounce rate and exit percentage.

Google Analytics stats track almost 10,000 unique pageviews, with the United States accounting for 39 per cent of sessions, Canada 18 per cent, the United Kingdom 16 per cent, Australia 4 per cent and China nearly 3 per cent. We had no hits from Kazakhstan, Iran, Libya or Bolivia so we’ll work harder in 2015 to be of interest to everyone, anywhere.

Top stories in terms of pageviews in 2014 were:

1. Shipping containers: 60 years in the box

2. Women of the world paint stories with song

3. Why listening to Louis Armstrong could lead to riskier bets

4. Our 2013 feature on 30 years of Reading Rainbow

5. Part 1 of our investigation, What are we wearing

 

Tomorrow's web stats 2014 showing almost 10,000 unique pageviews.

Tomorrow’s web stats 2014 showing almost 10,000 unique pageviews.

Web stats 2014 vs 2013

Tomorrow’s web stats 2014 show a 44 per cent rise in pageviews and unique pages views compared to 2013.

Journalism accountability: 2013-2014 accounts for Tomorrow

Under principle 3 (independence and accountability) and principle 6 (duty to openness), Tomorrow is publishing our profit and loss account for 2013-2014. There was a loss for the second year, but less than in 2012-2013 thanks to reduced costs and more donations. If you value our work, do please consider making a donation via Paypal.

Accountability

Profit and loss account for Tomorrow.is for the year to April 1, 2014.

 

Athlete in Residence Morgan Bird

Tomorrow would like to welcome Morgan Bird as the website’s first Athlete in Residence. Ms Bird, 21, is a native of Calgary, Alberta, and a member of Canada’s national para swimming team. She will be writing monthly for the website from September 2014 and joins Artist in Residence Jason Skinner as part of Tomorrow’s commitment to building community through news.

You can find all of Ms Bird’s pieces at http://tomorrow.is/athlete-residence/.

Morgan Bird, centre

Canadian para swimmers (l to r) Aurélie Rivard, Morgan Bird and Katarina Roxon at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Photo courtesy Morgan Bird.

Scottish independence and freedom of expression

Tomorrow’s first core principle is freedom of expression. It is the foundation for all our reporting, from the people we interview, to the comments and debate that follows, and all points in between.

In the debate in Scotland over whether the nation should be a state independent and separate from the current United Kingdom, it has been proposed that a future country would have a written constitution. Similarly, the UK Conservative Party, currently in coalition government, has long vowed to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights and instead offer their own British Bill of Rights.

The saltire

Expression should be written in stone.

Both these positions are rooted in a dissatisfaction with the current politics, playing to voting bases that are either unhappy with the UK, or with Europe. Both are attempts to offer very party political notions of what should be a “right” on the British Isles. Conservatives in the UK argue Europe’s concepts of rights are giving too many to the wrong people, such as criminals, and that only Britons know what real rights should belong to Britain. Nationalists in Scotland make the same point for a repatriation of sorts on to home soil, that only Scots can know what should really be protected as rights, while still part of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But neither talk about freedom of expression, which is ironic considering how much they make use of it, not only to assert their position, but to denounce those who counter notions of “British” or “Scottish”.

At a European level, the right to speak – and for our purposes, the right to report – comes 10th in the list. This is very different from the former British – and very enthusiastically Scottish – colonies of the United States and Canada. What starts as the fourth article of the US bill of rights becomes the third and then first amendment of the constitution. Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms puts speech at number one.

Debates over rights, when in the heat of political or election debates, tend to frame rights as either free stuff to which the people should be entitled, or actions which people may take or which the state may not take to protect rights. Expression is rarely considered. And when celebrities and politicians can so easily denounce the media for the actions of a few, and when bloggers can dismiss any views but their own, expression is the right which must be most protected.

Without the freedom of expression, there would be no exposure of reporting scandals, there would be no blogs that criticise anything that moves, there would be no ability to question and build a nation, whatever its borders might be. Expression, including the so-called desecration of a flag or the waving of a rival one, protects the ability to debate what a nation is, the nature of individual and societal identity, and the very foundation of what is right and wrong, including the definitions of “flag” and “desecration”.

Speech, particularly in an era of anonymised social media, allows the branding of almost any comment as “offensive”, therefore necessitating resignations, terminations of employment or political representations, etc. Speech can do all manner of things, including offend. But the automatic response is to silence the person entirely, and that is a dangerous trend.

Tomorrow’s 11th principle is promoting responsible debate and mediation – and none of that is possible without the expression of even the most abhorrent remarks. Those who profess being offended are frequently guilty of themselves “offending”, but social media and even TV debates, particularly during the Scottish independence referendum, is dominated by whomever can yell loudest. Those voices should have no more “right” to their expressions than any other citizen or reporter doing their job anywhere in the UK or beyond.

Racism, for example, can incite racist acts against others, and those acts and related speech, are widely criminalised in the western world. But jailing a racist or denouncing a political party’s racist policies alone doesn’t change the individual or reverse racism – education and understanding can do that, both only possible through expression.

There are many people who use free speech irresponsibly. Whenever a celebrity is investigated for any potential crime, social media becomes a lawyers’ paradise for libellous comments.

But there is no celebration of the right to free expression, and so the resulting responsibilities that draw on it can easily remain unknown. Without the first principle, Tomorrow’s subsequent 10 could not exist; those 10 honour the first through the duties prescribed as a news organisation.

 

James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and one of the founders of the nation, wrote the first amendment. The quotes from him most typically associated with freedom of speech are:

A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.1

But actually, a more useful treatise comes from the Federalist Papers. No 10, by James Madison, states:

Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency. …

As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

People inherently disagree, as do states, stemming entirely from the diversity. What must be protected is the diversity of faculties, the expression of them through disagreements.

John Stuart Mill was the English born son of the Scottish philosopher James Mill and one of the most important writers on freedom of speech. In chapter two of On Liberty, he wrote:

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.2

When everyone has an opinion, it is easy to demand that all others be silenced because they are wrong. The historic defences of the right to the opinion in the first place have been forgotten.

Tomorrow would argue that freedom of expression must be protected as a first principle if or when Scotland separates or if or when the British government decides to pull out of the ECHR.

Tomorrow bases its domain name in Iceland and its server in the US, both nations which have shown more commitment to freedom of expression in the past decade than the UK or indeed Scotland. Our duty to protect the right to report comes before party political declarations and will remain as our first principle in whatever nation we report from or base ourselves in. Any reporter, artist or otherwise who works for Tomorrow can look to that assurance and protection, as can those who react to our work.

Scotland’s referendum will take place on September 18, the date of the first edition of the New York Times. Tomorrow invites all parties, whatever the result, to vow to make freedom of expression a priority across the British Isles. It is what will ensure and protect future debates, and help grow the “better” and “more just” society that all political parties profess to champion.

  1. http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/hall-of-fame/james-madison
  2. http://www.bartleby.com/130/2.html