Isle of Man – what use is a captive press?

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I have already commented upon the state of the press in Jersey this morning. Let me add further example of the state of the press in the Crown Dependencies, this time in the Isle of Man.

My blog on why Jersey and the Isle of Man would fail the EU Code of Conduct was mailed by a concerned observer to a wide range of people, one of whom was a Julie Taylor, a reporter on the IoMToday. She replied to her correspondent saying:

Hi X

This message has been forwarded on to me as the business reporter here at Isle of Man Newspapers.

We are well aware of Mr Murphy's views and I would be wary of taking everything he writes as fact. The Isle of Man tax system has never, as a whole, failed to meet EU code standards. One small part of it did earlier this year and the government has proposed an alternative along the lines of what Jersey appears to be planning. This was covered by the paper at that time.

We will be watching to see how this is received by the Code Group in due course. If you have any comments to make about the new proposal, please do send these through to me at the address below for inclusion in any future articles on the subject.

Julie

Now I found this curious. I have never spoken to the reporter in question. So, having noted that she questioned my credibility I sent her a note. I said:

Dear Julie

X has copied your mail to me.

I note you have never spoken to me. This is unusual in itself: large numbers of journalists from around the world have done so from papers as notable as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, all the UK broadsheets, the BBC, Channel 4, many European broadcasters and from news agencies such as Bloomberg and Reuters. I am accessible, and my opinion is considered reliable, and is reported regularly. It is odd that in the circumstance you question my credibility without having ever sought to make contact. Can you justify such behaviour in the light of normal journalistic behaviour which seeks to determine the evidence before passing comment?

It is even stranger that you question my grasp of "facts" when it is quite clear that I am not writing of facts in the mail to which this correspondence relates: I am offering reasoned argument in support of an opinion.

In contrast I regret to advise that your own grasp of "facts" appears limited and your capacity for mis-statement in contrast is considerable. You say:

The Isle of Man tax system has never, as a whole, failed to meet EU code standards. One small part of it did earlier this year and the government has proposed an alternative along the lines of what Jersey appears to be planning.

Your first statement is true but only insofar as the EU Code Group has never considered the Isle of Man tax system as a whole. It has only ever considered one small part of it, which is that part (the Distributable Profits Charge) intended to remove the ring-fence that the EU Code Group had ruled most harmful within the IoM's tax laws. You might consider this part small, but size in this regard has to be measured in the context of what is being considered, and this was the matter under review and by this measure the IoM failed, absolutely. It was not as you imply a small failure, it was a total rejection.

And since the replacement practice that the IoM is seeking to adopt has itself not been approved by the EU Code Group your dismissal of that rejection by suggesting conformity with Jersey will guarantee success in the future is a statement of hope at best, but far from a statement of fact. You have offered no argument in support of your hope, whilst I have taken the trouble to elucidate why the change will not work in my opinion. That opinion is, I suggest worthy of note. After all, I was the first person to point out that the DPC would fail, and have been proved right. I also pointed out why Jersey should not follow that route, which it planned to do and it heeded my advice. I seem to have some ability in this area.

In the circumstances might you answer these questions:

1) Why have you sought to malign me without seeking to confirm your facts?

2) Why does your comment lack that objectivity that one would expect of a reasonable newspaper when considering a major news story of interest to its readership?

3) Since the observations I make relate to a system on which the IoM is pinning its economic future, why are you not willing to report them in your paper?

Regards

Richard

Robust, I agree, but fair, I think.

I got a reply. She said:

Dear Mr Murphy

I do apologise if you feel maligned by my response to X. I was not questioning your credibility, merely making the same point that you yourself do - your posting is an 'argument in support of an opinion' and not 'writing of facts'.

I do not intend to get into a slanging match regarding either your credibility or my journalistic integrity. At no point have I ever expressed an unwillingness to consider your comments and I have never stated that the proposed replacement for the DPC will or should meet EU code. As I said to X, I will be watching the Code Group's response with interest and should you wish to contribute to any article resulting from that or about any other new story, do feel free to get in touch. You can also put your views in a letter to the editor (word limit 500) if you feel that would be appropriate. Such letters should be sent to newsdesk@newsiom.co.im

Julie Taylor

This is just plain daft. The Code Group will reply in 2009 at the earliest. Clearly Ms Taylor is willing to wait a long time for her story. Or she does not have much understanding of what she is writing. In the meantime my comments might well be the news, but she has not referred to them, although she says she is well aware of them. That's because they are studiously ignored in the IoM. It's very obvious policy there to make sure local people are not aware of alternative opinion.

As important though, this brought to mind those old exam papers I once suffered, usually in maths that set two problems and then asked as the third part of the question that you reconcile the first two stated positions. I'll do that here. How can you reconcile?

We are well aware of Mr Murphy's views and I would be wary of taking everything he writes as fact.

with

I do apologise if you feel maligned by my response to X. I was not questioning your credibility, merely making the same point that you yourself do - your posting is an 'argument in support of an opinion' and not 'writing of facts'.

The answer, of course, is easy. You can't. It's not possible to do so. And nor can you explain why she failed to answer the reasonable questions I posed. Almost certainly that's because like too many journalists she does not understand the complexity of the issues involved and cannot therefore convey them for her audience.

Except there is an explanation for all this. It's that the fourth estate in tax havens are failing to do their duty to investigate, analyse and inform, with the consequence that the decision making processes in those places are equally shoddy and ill-informed. In so doing journalists in these places harm the democratic processes as much as the politicians and civil servants who support the structures that allows these places to be host to $1 trillion of assets held with intent to evade tax.

In fact, worse than that (and especially in the case of the Isle of Man) it's my impression that journalists seem to see it as their job to defend the actions of the State on every occasion possible, and actually see it as their job to suppress or discredit any other view, as was attempted here.