Three journalists, one from Britain, one from the United States and one from Australia, were talking in the bar of the best hotel in some ghastly trouble spot and after the ritual round of bragging about this scoop and that, the conversation eventually turned to how they had entered their profession.

The British journalist explained: ‘The great British parliamentarian Edmund Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament — the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual and the Commons, but in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate “more important far than they all.” I see our profession, frank, fearless and free, as an essential part of the political and cultural life of our nation.’

The American said: ‘Well, we were first with that . Our press was free under the First Amendment to our Constitution, which, unlike yours, is actually written down, so we have a guarantee in writing that our rights and our function as one of the most important checks and balances on untrammelled state power shall not be infringed.’

The Australian said: ‘They told me there was no heavy lifting, so I went for it like a rat up a drainpipe.’