Exposing the corruption
How journalists have helped to expose some of the biggest injustices in recent political history
Across the history of the media, journalists have often been at the brunt of criticism from society. Whilst some instances are perhaps justifiable, most of the time the negativity isn’t necessary. Something that people who give journalists no credit will hate to hear is that the media is absolutely vital; and has helped to expose some of the biggest injustices in history.
The first and probably most go to example of this is the Watergate scandal. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein put together the story which would lead to the beginning of the end of the Richard Nixon administration.
The Washington Post, the paper the paper worked for, were reluctant at first to run the story out of fear of the implications from the government. It started with a break in at the Watergate Hotel, and it ended in a watertight piece on how Nixon’s Republican Government spied on their Democratic rivals. It led to an impeachment brought to Nixon, and the President jumped before he was pushed by resigning.
Whilst other news outlets covered Nixon’s surge to victory in the 1972 election, the Post broke scoops of a very different nature. Amongst the stories were that the Attorney General John Mitchell controlled a secret fund that paid for a campaign to gather information on the Democrats and Nixon’s aides had run “a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage” on behalf of Nixon’s reelection effort.
A key component to the breaking of the scandal was Woodward’s contact with Mark Felt, a high ranking official at the FBI. Known as ‘Deep Throat’, Felt’s true identity was only revealed in 2005. His role in bringing down the Nixon administration can never be underestimated.
In 2003, a translator at GCHQ in Cheltenham received an email which contained evidence of an operation designed to blackmail UN delegates into voting in favour of authorising an invasion of Iraq. UN weapons inspectors were sent into Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction. None were found, but the vote had been passed and the invasion began.
The translator, Katherine Gun, took a copy of the email to several newspapers but heard no response. It was only when, thanks to a third party, it was given to Martin Bright at the Observer, that Gun’s brave actions were rewarded. Once the memo made it into the paper, Bright had used the ammunition provided by Gun to expose the corruption of the bribery of the UN.
Although she sent it into the paper, Gun was not made aware that it would be published and also in its entirety. Bright was doubtful at first due to the vagueness of the memo and the fact that the sender information was hand written on the back of the document.
Bright took a punt on persuading his editor to run with the story which helped to add evidence to the argument that the war in Iraq was not just unpopular, but illegal. Gun may have done the brave part by printing off the document from a hub of British intelligence and sending it to the press, but the exposure of the story wouldn’t have been possible without the work of Bright.
These are just two examples of how the media have played a crucial role in exposing political corruption. The bravery of pushing through with a story when the risks are very real is what makes journalism of this kind a vital part of our society.