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This house believes that the wire tapping of journalists is justified.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/10/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,451 times Debate No: 19215
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
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Full resolution:
This house believes that the wire tapping of journalists is justified.

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I accept the motion, with the precursor that we stick to ESU Mace rules (which are practically the same, except that we do not have preset definitions, and judges use their own discretion if someone squirrels, or changes definitions).
Debate Round No. 1


Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to be debating Stephen on such an important issue. My father is a well-respected journalist and I have long had a fascination with how journalism and public policy interrelate. In this debate, my contention will be that there are situations in which journalists are justified in wiretapping. My opponent needs to show that wiretapping is never justified for journalists.

I believe (and I think my opponent would agree) that all people have an inherant right to privacy. Wiretapping is an invasion on somebody's privacy. It is not sufficient, as News of the World did, to compromise that right in pursuit of some simple profits. Not only is that both illegal and immoral, but it is a violation of a basic human right we all possess. However, few (if any) rights are absolute, and profit is not the only aim of journalism. Let me therefore begin with my substantive contentions.

Journalists don't just disseminate information for cash. They also perform a very important public service. The check on bad government is the people - both internationally and, presuming that the nation in question is democratic, through the citizens who elect the government. It's no secret that governments and their constituent parts (politicians) often do things they're not supposed to - torture/kill civilians, steal from their own people and aid agencies, secretly expropriate foreign-owned assets, engage in secret cartels with criminal groups, and so on and so forth. These things put the public in danger. The real problem is, however, that governments have cover-ups. It isn't just governments either. Religious groups too have been rocked by abuse and corruption attacks in recent years, after many years of cover-ups. Corporations also aren't immune - worker abuse, secret enviromental damages, and so forth are not uncommon to hear of. So long as these groups can get away with doing stuff and keeping it covered up, they'll probably do it. That's where the journalists step in.

Wiretapping can be, and has been, used by journalists to uncover state (and church and corporate) secrets that put members of the public at risk. Any action which limits a journalist's ability to inform the public of possible dangers they might be in also limits our ability to both recognise and deal with dangers, both on our own soil and around the world. We can never know just how many innocent lives have been saved by wiretapping - after all, a good investigative journalist doesn't exactly reveal his techniques so that they can be used again - but consider how many scandals were broken by the media, which would have resulted in injustice had they not been revealed.

Journalists hold this place in society exclusively. We grant them special freedom to reveal these kinds of things, and in return, we expect them to uphold certain standards surrounding how they disseminate information, such as the need to check their facts. Furthermore, they're not necessarily tied to the governments, religious power structures and big corporates of the world, and consequently, they are able to expose the scandals in these organisations that are a threat to the public. Practical experience tells us we can't trust this information to just magically reveal itself - and even if it did, only one group has the power to disseminate that insight around the world. That group is journalists.

We should all be immensely scared that journalists, whose worst crime is making a portion of their small margins unethically, can not perform this essential duty in most of the countries around the world, whereas governments, who have a proven track record of causing death and destruction, are legally able to do so. If we accept the principle that the right to privacy is not absolute, either because we accept governments or we accept the danger they pose, it is an unacceptable double standard to not afford the same privilege to a bunch of objective and fair professionals. For too long, governments have been the check on government, not people. Things are changing, but the "world police" image of certain nations is hard to shake off. Accepting the principle that the people and their informants (not those who keep secrets from them) should be the check on government is impossible if they are not able to fulfil the task.

Most privacy laws around the world apply if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. When you're strutting around being a brutal dictator, it is not unreasonable to think that someone might notice. When you're taking stealing millions of dollars from the multinational conglomerate you run, it is not unreasonable to think that someone might notice. In short - if you break the law, or basic human rights, you might expect that there is a chance you will be caught, no matter how "private" you think engaging in such actions is. If the only way to expose these truths, which are very much in the interests of many more people than one's "private" associates, is by eavesdropping, then that needs to be protected.

I remember reading a court judgement once, where the court held that "privacy ends where the public peril begins." I think that's a very wise ruling. We need to protect our privacy, I agree - but what privacy do you have if someone else is able to exploit it? I say that it's time to end the cover-ups. It's time to give journalists the freedom they not only deserve, but also require, if they are to perform their role. It's time to end the power monopolies and hegemonies that have characterised our age, by returning power to the people through fair government - something only possible with absolutely free press.

Let's end the exploitation.

The motion stands.


Stephen_Hawkins forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Stephen has explained to me that he is overwealmed with studies, a sentiment I can well understand. Thanks anyway for the chance to get my arguments out there!

Vote pro.


Preferably abstain from voting, but vote pro rather than con.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Chrysippus 4 years ago
Abstained from voting, as requested.
No votes have been placed for this debate.