Press 'need to act' after Leveson

 
Gerry McCann and Christopher Jeffries Gerry McCann and Chris Jeffries launched the Hacked Off campaign

The press have been urged to take action over Leveson Inquiry recommendations to regulate the newspaper industry.

Lord Justice Leveson called for a new independent watchdog - which he said should be underpinned by legislation.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the BBC "the gauntlet has been thrown down" to newspapers to outline how they would set up tough self-regulation instead.

A campaign has been launched calling on MPs to implement the proposals in full.

Leveson Inquiry witnesses Gerry McCann, the father of missing Madeleine McCann, and Christopher Jeffries, who was wrongly arrested for the murder of Joanna Yeates, launched the petition which is on the campaign group Hacked Off's website.

Lord Justice Leveson's 2,000-page report into press ethics, published on Thursday, found that press behaviour was "outrageous" and "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people".

He said the press - having failed to regulate itself in the past - must create a new and tough regulator but it had to be backed by legislation to ensure it was effective.

The report exposed divisions in the coalition government, with Prime Minister David Cameron opposing statutory control, unlike his deputy Nick Clegg, who wants a new law introduced without delay.

Following cross-party talks on Thursday night - which will resume next week - the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will begin the process of drawing up a draft bill implementing the Leveson recommendations.

Proposed new press law

Would:

  • Create a process to "validate" the independence and effectiveness of the new self-regulation body
  • Validate a new process of independent arbitration for complainants - which would benefit both the public and publishers by providing speedy resolutions
  • Place a duty on government to protect the freedom of press

Would not:

  • Establish a body to regulate the press directly
  • Give any Parliament or government rights to interfere with what newspapers publish

It is thought the draft legislation may be ready within a fortnight.

The prime minister believes this process will only serve to highlight how difficult it is to try to legislate in a complex and controversial area while Labour and the Lib Dems think it will demonstrate the opposite.

But the BBC's Norman Smith says Labour sources fear the government will produce draft legislation written in such a way as to discredit the proposals - "like something the Stasi [East German secret police] had written".

Gauntlet thrown

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mrs Miller said: "Our concern is that we simply don't need to have that legislation to achieve the end of objectives and in drafting out this piece of legislation what we are going to be demonstrating is that it wouldn't be a simple two-clause bill."

She said Conservative ministers felt that legislation "would actually give the opportunity in the future to bring into question the ability of Parliament to stay out of the issue of free press and difficult for Parliament to not have a statutory framework on which they could hang further bits of legislation".

She went on: "At this point what we should be focusing in on is the fact that the gauntlet has been thrown down to the industry.

Analysis

Government sources say they expect to produce a draft "Leveson" bill within a fortnight.

However they expect the draft bill to underline their argument that any legislation would be much more unwieldy and extensive than envisaged by supporters of Leveson. They believe the draft bill will support their view that legislation would therefore be a threat to the freedom of the press.

Instead, ministers want the newspaper industry to come forward with their own plans for regulation "within months." It's also being made clear that if the industry fails to agree on an acceptable revised package..then "the legislative stick remains an option."

Earlier, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said alongside the issue of legislation, she had "very grave concerns" about some of the other details in the Leveson report -including on the role of Ofcom and rules on data protection.

Labour sources say they fear the government will produce draft legislation that looks like "something the Stasi has written" in an effort to discredit the Leveson proposals

"The press industry need to be coming back with their response to the Leveson report. Their response to how they're going to put in place a self-regulatory body that adheres to the Leveson principles and that is what I want to see moving forward swiftly."

Many of Friday's newspapers have praised Mr Cameron's opposition to law-backed regulation.

But Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told the BBC "a bit of statute" was a price worth paying for an effective new system of regulation and that he believed the press could "live with most of" the Leveson proposals.

Mr Rusbridger, who revealed that he spoke to other editors on Thursday night, said: "I think about 80% of it is right and can be agreed on.

"It is right that is is open, that it is fair, that it's got sanctions, that it can investigate... that it's not picked from amongst the old cosy club."

But the father of Madeleine McCann - the young girl who went missing in Portugal in 2007 - said he would have liked the report to have gone further.

"Clearly the public want it, there's been a judicial review and I think the recommendations should be implemented.

"There's no good reason why they shouldn't be. That's my view and I think it's the view of all the victims," he said.

Mr McCann, who was the subject of what he called "unbelievably damaging" newspaper reports that suggested he and his wife killed Madeleine, added: "The press has been given enough chances, and in my opinion Lord [Justice] Leveson has given them another chance to put a structure in place which they are happy with."

Labour leader Ed Miliband has joined Mr Clegg in supporting a new press law.

He said many of the victims of sections of the press will be feeling "utterly betrayed" by the prime minister.

"I am going to stand up for people like the McCanns and the Dowlers who have been appallingly treated by sections of the press and who put their faith in David Cameron, put their faith in the Leveson Inquiry, and who are frankly I think astonished by what the prime minister has done," he said.

Mrs Miller is meeting members of the Hacked Off campaign on Friday afternoon and will discuss the position taken by Conservative ministers.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 443.

    hatever the sector, whether Journalism, Banking, Telecomms, Transport, Energy. Needs regulation with teeth. Otherwise this idea that people will take it upon themselves to behave within moral and legal frameworks is a false reality when profit is in the way!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 442.

    Failure to give the necessary statutory back-up to the press's self-regulation does nothing more than establish a slightly different status quo, and would be a huge slap in the face for the many victims of press abuse. Mr Cameron's rejection of this is nothing short of insulting to both the victims and to Lord Justice Leveson's wise and measured report.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 441.

    The press are a commercial entity & as evidenced by journalists' own admissions, they are also more intent on creating news than simply reporting on it. Too many have suffered and some also committed suicide thanks to the baying mob and they will continue without impunity. Self-regulation is at best a very naive expectation - real consequences are needed to curb a pack permitted to run wild.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 440.

    In the words of Mrs Thatcher, "Weak, weak, weak". It is palpably in the best interests of the ordinary people of the UK that the government should accept Lord Leverson's recommendations but Cameron knows that if he does what is right he is gone - the press would crucify him. But isn't doing the right thing what we should expect of our PM? Not this one it would seem.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 439.

    Nice to see people going "over the top" on this. Cameron has NOT said NO to legislation what he DID say is he uncomfortable with it and that is why he opened cross party talks. It is true that legislation could be a slippery slope to hard fought rights of press freedom. If I gave you a report with a load of complex recommendations would you accept it without questioning parts of it?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 438.

    Cameron has a point. If we legislate against media that tell lies who will be next? Politicians?
    Tory governments?
    Now who would want that?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 437.

    Surely the best way to stop the press wrong doing is simply not to buy the paper, the same as Liverpool did with the Sun, that way decent papers have nothing to fear and we get rid of the so called gutter press.
    We the people have the power to control the press "

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 436.

    VAT on Newspapers

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 435.

    How about a boycott of newspapers and magazines until they promise to clean up their act. A week should do

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 434.

    the press have had a wake up call,BUT IT MUST STAY FREE AND REGULATE ITSELF,I AGREE WITH CAMERON.

    AT LEAST IT EXPOSED SOME OF THE THEIVING MP,S.IT MUST NOT BE GAGGED.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 433.

    414.modharry

    Ah, I see. "It's just the way it is" - not my problem guv'nor. Don't expect me to take any responsibility for any of that political stuff...
    Just give me my footie - that's the most important thing...

    You can't complain about media barons on one hand whilst supporting them with money on the other. That's called hypocrisy

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 432.

    419.
    Quite right too. You are going to tell me you never show interest in such tragedies in news reports? Never take note of the standard reports of where X lived, what they did, what the local teacher thought of the always perfect children? Talking to others rather than pestering the parents was reasonable. Standard BBC reporting of tragedies will take impressions from locals. No issue.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 431.

    Cont from post 412.

    And if you believe newspaper regulation should be mandatory, you'll always have the option of not buying papers which don't wish to participate in a voluntary system.

    The fear of a potential public backlash, falling sales and going out of business should be enough to persuade most newspaper bosses to voluntarily sing up to an industry code of conduct.

  • rate this
    +61

    Comment number 430.

    To all the high-flown words about free speech and individual liberty:
    - free speech by an individual is not the same as free speech by a newspaper or corporation
    - a newspaper can crush an individual (in speech or in legal costs)
    - an individual pays consequences personally; a corporation does not
    - "ancient rights & liberties" are not so old but do date before mobile phones

    Prayers for Maddie.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 429.

    413.JamesStGeorge
    The BBC?, not SKY news or .. say FOX news, not ITN or any news outlet just the BBC and as you say the left political spectrum?
    You people loose all credibility as soon as you speak.

    Contradiction, it's all the rabid right wing are good at.
    Well sorry, it's also making sure they can delude and confuse people into some political divide
    Whilst their wallet's are growing day by day

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 428.

    Freedom of the Press , great in theory but a nightmare for a great many innocent people in reality! Statutory regulation is the answer and Cameron by rejecting that ( if not bonkers I will implement) ,is as per usual unable to keep to any promise he makes!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 427.

    Many people here would like the press to be regulated. We could all individually regulate it ourselves by avoiding the scandalmongers; in a better world of course.
    But for a better world we all need an unregulated free press.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 426.

    Can't we include this within the scope of the JFDI initiative?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 425.

    It is very easy when in opposition to utter rhetorical statements such as the Government should implement in full the report findings blah blah blah. In this particular case there is no reason to deduce whatsoever that Labour along with the Conservatives have courted and been far to close to the press barons for decades. In short the status quo will be maintained.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 424.

    The issue that seems to have been missed in the furore is the issue of management responsibility. The editor and proprietor of any publication are the ultimate arbitrators of what is printed. They set the tone, standards and mores of the title and manage their staff accordingly. Pleading ignorance of staff behaviour and standards is no defence. Perhaps they should carry personal responsibility.

 

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