Watching the BBC attempt to justify how it treated Sir Cliff Richard was embarrassing. The disgraceful sensationalising of a very difficult issue should have solicited a clear unequivocal apology, instead, they tried to bury their misdemeanour and wrap it up in the flag of ‘freedom of speech’.
The founding fathers in America fought for the right of individuals to have freedom of speech, to express whatever they wished without fear of persecution from the state, to believe whatever they wanted to believe without being oppressed by the government to assemble peaceably and to be able to petition for redress of grievances. In fact, in America congresses is not allowed to pass any laws that would prohibit the free exercise of religion or freedom of speech or freedom of the press.
So what you do when the press abuses that very freedom and uses it to traduce the character of an innocent man. the furore caused may, on the whole, be over for the executives of the BBC that promoted the publication of those pictures we saw on our TV screens. But Sir Cliff Richard will have to live with the scars for the rest of his life.
I watched with amazement as one reporter said that we needed to maintain the freedom of the press without any restriction because it allows us to keep an eye on the police. “Who is policing the police”, he said, “the press being able to be involved in these kinds of situations means that we make sure they do not go beyond their powers “he pontificated. My question is who is going to restrain the press they clearly cannot be trusted to regulate themselves, And the evidence for this is mounting.
The Bible is clear about the power of the tongue and its deadly or life-giving properties, it can uplift an individual and encourage the human heart, or it can cut and wound and leave an individual broken the human tongue is by far the most powerful muscle in the body. The things that people say which create ideas that are embraced are often communicated by the tongue. If you consider some of the greatest speeches in history Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream speech for example of President Kennedy’s declaration that we are going to the moon not because it is easy because it is hard, you become aware of the power of words that influence can have an ability to motivate the masses in unexpected ways. But they don’t always just motivate the masses for good when we recount some of Hitler’s rhetoric we see the damage that can be inflicted because our human speech when it’s tainted and motivated by darkness is destructive. How the Bible puts it is like this, the tongue is like a flame that can set a forest ablaze or like a rudder that can direct the course of the ship James 3:1–12.
Not many people have the power and reach of dictators or rulers, but the BBC does. Because of its reach, and its position of trust, when it says something it has a duty to ensure that what is saying is factual, honest and genuinely in the public interest. The judge’s summing up his verdict about the treatment of Sir Cliff Richard made clear what the BBC did was not in the public interest. So the question remains in whose interest were these scenes brought before us of helicopters whizzing around Sir Cliff’s house. Possibly in the interests of the career of the people scheduling the news programs and reporters seeking to make a name for themselves whilst happily destroying the name of an honest and decent citizen. The fact that nobody at BBC recognised that this was wrong was further revealed by the fact that the reporter who broke the story was put up for a prestigious award. Nobody seemed to realise just how bad the behaviour was, rather it was applauded celebrated and lionised. Probably worse is that those who did, kept quiet possibly did  because they wish to make progress with their careers and speaking out might damage them. What would certainly be a disaster for our nation is if this became the culture in the corporation.
Sir Cliff Richard has rightly said heads should roll at the BBC. I would agree with him those responsible for this incident should be removed from office as a lesson to other reporters, by all means, report the news but stay away from sensationalist speculation just because you think it will further your career, actually, it might end it.
What is true for the media is also true for us who claim to be Christians, our religion is worthless if we cannot control our tongue. James 1:26-27.
For example, I have watched how Christians on social media have abused politicians whom they disagree with. This is alarming as the Bible says we should do the opposite, it says we should pray for those in government that means both the opposition and those who are currently in power. In the United Kingdom, our governmental system is one of checks and balances you have those in power and those who shadow those who currently govern and use their shadow offices to hold them to account all of them are to be prayed for not just the ones we agree with. We are not to use our anger and justify what we say by wrapping it up in a cloak of righteousness this doesn’t fool God. Worse still it actually reduces the authority we carry as believers to make a difference in the world. Let us challenge injustice but don’t let join with the BBC in traducing people’s characters.
Now I’m aware that there are thousands of reporters in the BBC who would never behave in such a manner. And I do feel sorry for them, it is probably worthwhile thanking them for their honest reporting and recognising that they were probably horrified by how it was handled themselves. I would encourage such reporters to speak up publicly and condemn what the BBC has done in this case.
Our speech should always the gracious kind seasoned with salt speaking to one another gently and answering each other with respect.

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Categories: The Word