Statements


” SIR – Critics of the press industry’s proposed royal charter, who claim that it is “defying Parliament”, ought to be a bit careful about how they are divining what the “will of Parliament” actually is in this matter. The charter put forward on March 18 was never voted on in Parliament,which merely had before it a motion that day to “consider… the Prime Minister’s intention to submit the Charter to the PrivyCouncil”. There was no division on a substantive motion, so we don’t know what the view of the House might have been.
The only vote that took place – the one that was passed by 508 votes to 40 – was infact merely on a technical timetabling motion relating to the proposed new clauses on exemplary damages in the Crime and Courts Bill, which is an entirely subsidiary issue. Furthermore, no votes have taken place on the charter in the House of Lords.
So it is impossible to work out what the will of Parliament on the proposed charter is, and wrong, therefore, to say that the press is defying it. If Parliament were in fact to be prescribing speci?c systems of regulation, that would be statutory control with all its massive implications. Lord Justice Leveson called for independent, voluntary self-regulation. As a former president of the Privy Council, it seems to me that the press’s proposal deserves the equal consideration and full publicscrutiny that the charter process gives it.”

–Lord Wakeham (in a letter to The Daily Telegraph)

“One of the reasons London is regarded as one of the greatest places on earth to live in and to invest in, is because we have the stability that goes, not just with the rule of law, but with a system of government that’s almost entirely free from corruption or criminal activity at virtually every level;. And that is very largely thanks to the free, dynamic, irreverent, independent media that we have. And that is one of the glories of this country and we’ve got to fight to keep it that way.”

– Mayor of London Boris Johnson

“The clue is in the term ‘Free Press’; in order to be free the press has to be, well, free. And any element of statutory regulations will compromise this. The press will no longer be free, and that will ultimately undermine many of the things or grandparents and great grandparents fought and died in the Second World War to defend; freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom to challenge those in authority.
The real issue with phone hacking was not so much a failure of regulation, but a failure to enforce existing laws. And of course these failures were only brought into the public domain in the first place by the determination of an unfettered newspaper industry; evidence that even the press itself can be held to account by the press.”

– Gordon Young, Editor, The Drum

“Index on Censorship, Britain’s leading free speech organisation, is dead-set against statutory regulation after independent analysis of the possible effects. The UK prides itself on being an open democracy with a historical commitment to freedom of speech. Yet calls for statutory regulation of the press, draconian government proposals for surveillance and the criminalisation of online speech are undermining the outlook for free speech. Excessive sensitivity to offence is promoting self-censorship. We need to think carefully as a society on how important free speech is in protecting hard won freedoms.”
“Of greatest concern is the risk that Lord Justice Leveson’s report will endanger Britain’s centuries-old press freedom by proposing the statutory underpinning of press regulation – threatening the ability of the media to hold the government to account.More positively, the Defamation Bill will reform England and Wales’ archaic libel laws but it still does not include a public interest defence, which will allow libel law to continue to stifle investigative journalism in the UK.

– Mike Harris, Head of Advocacy, Index on Censorship

“We are The Universe Media Group Ltd, founded in 1860 and the UK’s largest religious newspaper and magazine publisher. Our main title is The Universe Catholic weekly.
“Since 1860 The Universe has enjoyed an unrivalled reputation for campaigning on human rights issues, matters of social justice, prisoners right, global and local poverty, and – in its small way – has added a significant voice to the political debate in the UK and Ireland.
“We are very concerned that a regulated press would simply not work, and would destroy fundamental public interest and human rights protections. The right of newspapers in particular to express unpopular or controversial views, and to investigate freely matters considered to be of public interest is not only an enshrined right in the UK, but is a vital protection for the public.”

– Joseph Kelly, Managing Director, Editor – The Universe, Who’s Who in Catholic Life, Church Building

“The scandals that led to the Leveson enquiry were all borne out of criminal acts. The law rightly criminalises those who obtain personal information by deception, hacking or theft and what is needed is for those offences to be taken seriously, with a custodial sentence as punishment if necessary. Statutory regulation of the press is absolutely not the way to protect privacy, but it will absolutely restrict the ability of the press to hold Government to account and chill freedom of speech.”

– Nick Pickles, Director, Big Brother Watch

“A free press is essential to a truly democratic society. Weaken the former and you weaken the latter. It really is as simple as that. There are no half measures and when it comes to regulation of a free press. You cannot have ‘a little bit of legislation.’ It’s all or nothing. Am I paranoid? You bet I am. There are people in power out there – politicians and public servants included – who utter fine words about democracy and accountability and then do all they can to cover up their corruption and hypocrisy. They have scores to settle.
The press does have a lot to answer for and, if truth be told, we have brought much of this upon ourselves. If Leveson flushes out the immoral, illegal and downright despicable practices of a small section of our industry, he will have done journalism and society as a whole a great service. If he advocates a regulatory body backed by legislation and that is implemented by this Government, he and every politician who supports him will go down in history as the people who made future curbs on press freedom possible… it is society as a whole, as well as the honest, decent and responsible press vital to a functioning democracy, that will suffer.”

-Simon O’Neill, Group Editor, Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times

“Self regulation of the press has let us down. Not because we don’t believe in it, but because the self- regulatory body, the Press Complaints Commission has failed to operate effectively enough because it lacks sufficient powers.
Does that mean that the solution is statutory legislation with the incumbent risk of the self-interest of politicians who have a vested interest in limiting the powers and the scope of press freedom – some of whom would like nothing better than to have their pound of flesh in retribution?
No, of course not.
We have to review the issue of press regulation outside of the hysteria and disgraceful revelations – and do so in a context of rational thought.
We cannot allow decisions to be made by politicians who are fast and loose with their own words, such as Nick Clegg who describes the press on the one hand as ‘desperate animals around a disappearing waterhole’ and on the other: ‘The underlying strength of your newspapers seems to be growing rather than diminishing… you have rates of trust in what you produce which is the envy of many other parts of the media.’
The point is that the likes of Mr Clegg draw a distinction between some of the national newspapers and the local media.
But statutory legislation will not do so. Nor will it be able to constrain or regulate publishers outside of newspapers – by which I mean the internet and social media.
How can statutory legislation prevent the naming of a rape victim in Nick Clegg’s Sheffield on social media, when newspapers abide by the law. How can regulation prevent the naming of Ryan Giggs on Twitter in contravention of a super-injunction imposed by the courts to protect his identity?
My point is that the press is already regulated – we are not immune to laws of defamation, intrusion, bribery etc. And the scandalous behaviour exposed by phone hacking can and should be punished by the laws as they already exist.
So why has self-regulation failed? It has failed because the PCC has no muscle, or teeth. We in the local press regard a ruling against us by the PCC as a badge of shame, to be avoided at all costs.
If that is not now thought to be sufficient to ensure regulation is to be effective across the entire newspaper industry, listen to Lord Black’s proposals. Preserve self-regulation but give the body teeth, the power to fine, bind publishers into a contractual relationship of self governance, with a body that has enforceable powers to investigate breakdowns in ethical standards and to impose financial sanctions.
Statutory regulation will fail to hinder publication because it cannot regulate publishers on the web and social media – and will therefore further disadvantage the print industry which is already facing a monumental struggle for survival.
It will allow politicians a control over the press that is unwarranted, open to their own abuse for their own self-interest and damage our role as a free press commenting in a free society.”

-Jeremy Clifford, Editor in Chief, The Star and Sheffield Telegraph

“The average person would probably think we have a free press. It’s a common enough assumption – but of course we are not free to report or behave as we like.
Unlike America where the right of the ordinary person to know what’s going on in their name, or with their money, is enshrined in a constitution, in the UK press ‘freedoms’ are largely defined by what we cannot report.
Here are just some of the ways we are already regulated:
• The laws of contempt and defamation.
• Misuse of private information.
• Misconduct in a public office.
• Numerous court reporting restrictions and witness protection measures.
• Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
• Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
• The Data Protection Act 1998.
• Computer Misuse Act 1990, Human Rights Act 1998, and Bribery Act 2010.
The breadth and weight of the existing legislation is complemented by the fact hat we in the regional press at least , we respect and adhere to the PCC code of conduct. And of course journalists, like everyone else, must obey the law.
In the face of suggestions of further regulation it should be noted that it is already a difficult and skilled job, in the framework of the controls described above, to hold those in public office to account.
In Doncaster for example, journalists on the weekly Doncaster Free Press carried out an investigation into a child care services scandal. This involved the deaths of several children and led to the local authority being named and shamed in Parliament and taken over by Government.
We met sometimes ferocious resistance on many levels, but we were right, and we eventually delivered to our readers a story about individual tragedies that added up to a matter of national significance.
The question is would new statutory regulations on the press, brought about in response to appalling behaviour elsewhere in the industry, make that kind of story more or less likely to come to light?
Political control could discourage or even snuff out investigative journalism which is wholly in the public interest.
No one is saying that self-regulation has not let us down. The Press Complaints Commission has not operated effectively enough.
But fresh statutory controls are not needed. Instead we need a form of PCC that can control all sections of the print media – such as the industry proposals submitted to the Leveson Inquiry.
If regulation is to be effective across the entire newspaper industry, listen to Lord Black’s proposals. Preserve self-regulation but give the body teeth, the power to fine, bind publishers into a contractual relationship of self governance, with a body that has enforceable powers to investigate breakdowns in ethical standards and to impose financial sanctions.
Statutory regulation will fail to hinder publication because it cannot regulate publishers on the web and social media – and will therefore further disadvantage the print industry which is already facing a monumental struggle for survival.
It will allow politicians a control over the press that is unwarranted, open to their own abuse for their own self-interest and damage our role as a free press commenting in a free society.”

-Graeme Huston, Editor in Chief, South Yorkshire Newspapers

“A free, and responsible, press is a cornerstone of a truly democratic society. Time and again, the press has proved that it can shine a light on issues that are in the public interest, and which clearly deserve to be exposed. The people of this country, who the press serve, need, and deserve, a free and responsible press to be able to operate in their interests.
Statutory regulation would be a shackle, and it will inevitably have an adverse impact on the ability of the press to act in the public interest. Yes, the press must behave in a fair, decent and responsible way – and that is what the vast majority of journalists do every day of their lives. Any journalist, or press outlet, that fails to live up to recognised standards proposed by a new system of tough, independent self-regulation deserves to be dealt with and punished – and they would be.
To impose statutory regulation is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The responsible majority of the press will suffer, but most of all, the people of this country, and our democracy, will suffer.”

-Mark Jones, Editor Gazette Newspapers, Basingstoke

The best example of a free press is the Daily Telegraph’s outstanding exposure of the MPs’ expenses scandal. I’m sure the public would not want state regulation of the press if they thought such scandals may never be reported in a regime where politicians decide what can and can’t be reported. We (NAPA) represent reporters and photographers working for press agencies all over the UK and abroad, all of whom are aware of their duty to be sensible and responsible for their actions. We’re proud of what we do and we don’t set out to harm and upset people. Therefore, I applaud and support the Free Speech Network’s campaign.

– Matt Bell, Chairman, National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA) 

“We knew there was far more important public interest journalism going on in the UK than our much-maligned journalists get credit for and, like many others, Press Gazette has noted that Lord Justice Leveson saw a one-sided and negative picture. The finalists for the first British Journalism Awards prove comprehensively that there are two sides to this story. The standard of entries was superb, with the investigation of the year category alone attracting more than 40 high-quality entries. These shortlists should make anyone who characterises all journalists as gutter hacks eat their words. They are proof that we are part of a noble profession that now, as much as ever, for the most part aspires to the highest standards.”

– Dominic Ponsford, Editor, Press Gazette

“The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka wholeheartedly supports the campaign to ensure statutory regulations are not promulgated in the UK to muzzle the free media. It is ironic that the Sri Lankan media ventured into self-regulation over a decade ago, successfully, taking a leaf out of the UK example. Any such regressive steps in the UK would clearly, send the wrong message to Governments in other Commonwealth countries, like Sri Lanka “.

– Siri Ranasinghe, President, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka. 

“As the world’s oldest global press freedom defender, the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) supports freedom of expression throughout the world and opposes statutory regulation of news media content that goes beyond what is strictly necessary in a democratic society to protect public safety and the people’s interest. Journalists educate and inform the public on matters of public interest, and news media hold governments accountable to the people and serve as watchdogs for democracy. To do this, the right of journalists to freely “seek, receive and impart information” must be upheld, both in the United Kingdom and in countries where some would use any embrace of statutory regulation in the U.K. in a cynical attempt to control their own media.”

Alison Bethel McKenzie, IPI Executive Director 

“Those supporting legislation of any kind that will curb press freedom appear not to appreciate the gravity of hindering free speech and opening the door to interference from the State. George Orwell observed that “the freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticise and oppose”. It does not mean restricted freedom, with a statutory threat lurking in the background. Nick Cohen got it right in his recent You Can’t Read This Book: if just one law could be enacted in the UK it should be the adoption of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution – “the best guarantor of freedom yet written”.

– Bill Hagerty, media commentator and editor

“The prospect of official regulation of the press is something we should fight tooth and nail to prevent. I genuinely think our newspapers are a force for good in the communities they serve, and to punish everyone for the offences of a tiny minority would be a tragedy.”

– KM Group editorial director Ian Carter

“State control and regulation are rarely the answer to anything.   In the case of the media certainly not”

– Dylan Jones, Editor, GQ

“Freedom of the press is crucial for any free and democratic country. It would send a dangerous signal to the world if a nation with the democratic traditions of the United Kingdom chose to introduce statutory regulation of the press.”

 – Jurgen Kronig, Die Zeit, President of the Foreign Press Association in London

“The Free Speech Campaign can certainly count on the support of St Bride’s Church, spiritual home of journalists everywhere, and a committed advocate of press freedom both in this country and across the world. Statutory regulation would not only adversely impact the ability of the press in this country to speak truth to power but also send entirely the wrong signal to regimes across the world who would see this as a green light to tighten even further their own legislation. We stand alongside all those who want a free and fearless press in this country as a vital part of our open and democratic society.”

– David Meara, Rector of St Bride’s Fleet Street and Archdeacon of London

“No one here will defend phone hacking but to take away the freedom to publish would undermine everything we stand for, and to bring statutory control the whole of the press for sins for which laws already exist is totally unacceptable in a free country. In addition, how could we legislate to control the printed press without similarly controlling the internet and thousands of magazines and leaflets etc? Could UK law really say we can stop you saying something on newsprint but we can’t stop you saying it on the internet? We need to think hard about this. A Daily Telegraph leader last week was headed ‘The threat to our free press is grave and foolish.’ It is, in fact, the worst threat I have known in my 65 years of active service in newspapers.”

– Sir Ray Tindle, chairman, Tindle Newspapers

“[Our] campaigns are an important reminder to politicians that THEY work for US, the voters. And newspapers such as the Manchester Evening News are here to make sure they never forget it. We are a positive nuisance to those in power because we are a constant reminder that they are not there out of entitlement. Tax-paying voters put them there and can kick them out. And tax-paying voters read newspapers… It must be tempting to some politicians to use the excesses of elements of the press as a pretext to rein us all in. It’s an alarming prospect. But it is very real… Papers such as the M.E.N. exist to scrutinise those in positions of power. It could not fulfill that role if those it was scrutinising had any authority over it, however limited.”

– Rob Irvine, editor, Manchester Evening News

“I’ve spent five decades in the media – national and regional. In that time I’ve never hacked a phone – I wouldn’t begin to know how. Moreover, I’ve never heard of a phone being hacked, and I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to hack a phone. I’ve never rifled through a celeb’s dustbin and I’ve never asked a journalist to do it. Many times, papers I’ve worked for have got things wrong, sometimes badly wrong. But NEVER have I worked on one that’s gone to press knowingly running something it knew to be untrue. The illegality of the press deserves to be punished and the process of law will continue to ensure it is. We should not forget that the laws of defamation are enshrined in statute and newspapers that break them are dealt with regularly and severely… The press, helped by independent regulators, must control itself. But allowing politicians to control it would be a victory for deceit and the dark forces which thrive upon it.”

– Alastair Macray, editor, Liverpool Echo

“The local press is vehemently opposed to any form of statutory involvement or ‘underpinning’ in the regulation of the press, however arms-length from government it might appear to be. No government could ever guarantee non-interference nor prevent its successors from tightening or extending statutory controls.”

– Adrian Jeakings, President, Newspaper Society

“Many of the publishers and editors on the African continent that I’ve discussed this unimaginable possibility with worry that if the UK does ill-advisedly take this route, it will be like manna from heaven for all the dictatorial regimes of the world. And we have a fair share of these tinpot dictators in Africa. Indeed, I can only imagine the unrestrained joy that some people around President Robert Mugabe would derive from such a backward step in the UK … if gold rusts, what about iron!”

– Jethro Goko, a Director of the Daily News, Zimbabwe, and former Deputy Editor of the South African financial daily Business Day.

“…the Fourth Estate – the media – has an almost sacred role in holding governments to account. A free and independent press has always been the keystone of an open society. That’s why I’m issuing a call to arms to the media the world over to hold the feet of government officials and ministers like me to the fire.”

– Government Minister Francis Maude.

“Any statutory regulations/provisions against the press in the UK will most gleefully be lapped up here for use against the local media. The one argument we have had; that the modern liberal democracies around the world have self-regulation rather than statutory laws for the media will fall down should the UK opt to embrace statutory legislation as well to police the press. Such moves will only strengthen the hand of oppressive, regressive governments around the English-speaking world.”

– Sinha Ratnatunga, Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

“Indeed, while the semi-democracies would hesitate to adopt such ‘new’ British standards – a category applied to the kind of legal structures envisaged – dictatorial governments would leap at anything repressive enacted in Britain as justifying their conduct. The prospect of ‘statutory underpinning’ is deeply worrying because it would set back the awfully slow but steady progress made in rising freedoms throughout the world over the last few centuries.”

– Raymond Louw, former South African editor and legendary international campaigner for press freedom

[I am] “unashamedly on the side of those who say that we should think very carefully before legislation and regulation because the cry ‘something must be done’ often leads to people doing something which isn’t always wise,”Education Secretary Michael Gove told the Leveson Inquiry (May 2012). [Journalists] are “exercising a precious liberty” when they write articles and “I am concerned about any prior restraint and on their exercising of freedom of speech.

– Education Secretary Michael Gove to the Leveson Inquiry (May 2012).

“The message the Commonwealth would decipher from any British decision to include a statutory dimension to press regulation will be that the UK, famous for commitment to her unwritten constitution, would be retrograding in her out-standing reputation of freedom, especially of expression, and instead undertaking subtle steps to gag the press…Such action would not only lend legitimacy to Cameroon’s feet-dragging attitude toward a possible good Freedom of Information Act, but lead to the sorry situation where the government further tightens the screws on the Cameroonian press, using “luminary” Britain as the good example.”

– Ephraim Banda Ghogomu, Media consultant and former senior executive of Cameroon state radio and TV

“If freedom of the press was undermined — or seen to be in danger of being undermined — by statutory regulation in the UK, it would surely not be an isolated incident; sooner or later, we would feel its negative repercussions here in Bermuda”.

– Tony Mcwilliam, Editor-in-chief of the Bermuda Sun and chairman of the Media Working Group, which set up the independent Media Council of Bermuda.