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Heather Brooke gives low-down on media propaganda at UEA lecture

PUBLISHED: 00:01 05 December 2012

Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke

Rick Morris Pushinsky

The award-winning journalist who blew the lid on the MPs' expenses scandal is giving a talk in London's East End tonight (Weds) on propaganda and the press.

Your Right to Know

Heather Brooke began work in 2000 on a book explaining how to use the new Freedom of Information Act which was not due to become law for another five years.

‘Your Right to Know’ was published in 2006, followed by ‘The Silent State’ (2010), and ‘The Revolution Will Be Digitised’ (2011).

In 2007, Heather won a landmark legal case that forced the BBC to disclose minutes of a Governors’ meeting three years before, when it voted to dismiss Director General Greg Dyke and issue an apology to the Government in response to the Hutton Inquiry. Brooke had requested the minutes shortly after the Act came into force in 2005, but the BBC resisted for nearly two years.

Hutton had strongly criticised the Corporation following the death of biological warfare expert David Kelly, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, in the wake of the controversy over alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction.

By then she had already turned her attention to MPs’ expenses, as far back as 2004. The Commons blocked all her requests—until the High Court finally ruled in 2008 in favour of releasing the information.

Heather Brooke opens her lecture at the University of East Anglia’s campus in Aldgate, on the dangers of public susceptibility to propaganda by the deluge of data in the Information Age.

It comes two days after the Leveson Report into the media.

“People’s concerns about the press are more timely now than ever,” she says. “They should understand the inter-action between the press, public and those in power in light of the Leveson report.”

But there is a wider issue with growing social media and the “deluge of data on a daily basis” with the public becoming more susceptible to propaganda, Heather points out.

“Most people aren’t equipped to wade through all this information, test it and choose what to use,” she explained.

“It is becoming more important with the rise of social media to think critically about the information we are presented with and to know how to judge it.

“Just because we have more information doesn’t mean it’s true or has any quality above rumour.”

Heather’s investigation and legal action against Parliament for disclosure of MPs’ expenses was the catalyst of the 2009 expenses controversy.

She is a Freedom of Information campaigner as well as journalist and visiting lecturer in contemporary history at UEA and a professor of journalism at City University.

Her lecture tonight is the first in a new public series from the UEA’s ‘Thought Out’ project on the importance of critical thinking in the digital age, beginning at 6.30pm at its London campus at 102 Middlesex Street, Aldgate. Free tickets can be reserved by email to s.hoffman-heap@uea.ac.uk, or online at www.thoughtoutproject.com/events.

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