The Free Speech Network believes that a vibrant free press and internet is essential to any democracy, ensuring that government and other institutions can be held to account by its citizens.
There has been no involvement by the state in press regulation in Britain for more than 300 years – for good reason. The press exists to scrutinise those in positions of power. It could not fulfill that role if those it was scrutinising had authority, however apparently limited, over it.
Successive UK governments have campaigned vigorously to persuade other countries to abolish controls on the press. Yet, as the Leveson Report nears completion, demands for regulation of the press backed by statute grow louder and more insistent. If those voices prevail, the impact on a free society would be incalculable at home and send dangerous messages abroad.
“A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny… where free institutions are indigenous to the soil and men have the habit of liberty, the press will continue to be the Fourth Estate, the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.”
– Sir Winston Churchill