Friday 15 March 2013

The unsavoury coalition to gag the press

The Prime Minister has now withdrawn from the cross-party negotiations on new regulations for the press. His argument is simple: the other parties want to muzzle the press and although there certainly have been infringements of the rights of innocent people over the last decade, the press has now accepted that a strong regulatory system needs to be put in place. Labour and the LibDem want a licensing system where journalists have to apply for to a statutory body to be able to work in a media outlet. The Prime Minister has rejected this.

There are two main reasons why I believe Cameron is right on this issue. First, with all due respect to victims of press intrusion, I don't think the victims of injustices have an overriding privilege to write legislation. The Hacked Off campaign director Brian Cathcart has already said that he does not 'want to know anything about' the freedom of the press. That does not bode well for free and responsible media.

The second reason Cameron may have called an end to the cross party charade is that the people ganging up on the press have less than honorable motifs. The motley crew of those who want to gag the press consists mainly of politicians who have misbehaved in public and faced the fallout of their misdemeanours in the press. They now think it is pay back time. Amongst others, there is Labour MP Chris Bryant who placed pictures of himself in a semi-naked state on the internet which were then published (I spare you the visual evidence). No wonder he would like to gag the press. On Wednesday, he (decently dressed this time) argued that the press should be regulated by the government through statutory law. That would put Britain on a par with Russia and China.

There is no doubt that the press needs a strong regulatory framework to operate in. What we don't need is to end 300 years of media freedom. The best thing Labour can do to reform press behaviour in this country is to come off the fence and support the libel reform law that they are trying to scupper in the upper house.

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