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
    +4

    Comment number 483.

    I note that the first thing that DC did was to claim that Leveson had exonerated the Tories (re the BSKYB fracas.) It did not . The press should take themselves seriously and set some professional standards to be observed by all journalists. To stick to verified facts and cut down on the salacious gossip.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 482.

    I deplore the British press & media pack. The owners, unprincipled so called journalists and prurient public who love to read the garbage. However, I'm opposed to legislation and government control. It's the first step to dictatorship. I'm a Conservative but think Cameron is the worst PM since Lord North. He opposes press legislation not on principle but to protect his slimy friends.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 481.

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

    Are they going to volunteer to go to prison instead?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 480.

    we need a free press. What about all the paedophiles , MP's expenses e.t.c, we need to know the sordid details so we know how to vote in furure. We are not in North Korea!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 479.

    Mr Cameron received personal favours from one NoW Editor and employed another with public money to promote himself - both charged yesterday with bribing officials. In any other walk of life Mr Cameron would have been precluded from dealing with the Leverson report as he could not be considered to be free of conflict of interest himeself. Sadly he does not even seem to see there is a problem!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 478.

    No arguments from me about the principles here, just worried about what this proposed new law might lead to. e.g.
    Regulate behaviour by statute? Who sets the standards? Where does it end? Press only?
    Quicker, cheaper redress for persons defamed by the press? - OK, means a special court system I guess. How long before calls for that to be extended to other areas, and then clogged up.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 477.

    There is no way "Dithering Dave" will close the "last chance saloon" whilst so many of his friends and supporters are to be found in it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 476.

    Freedom of speech doesn’t mean open season on lying and making stuff up.
    It doesn't mean pilloring the innocent and individual members of the public. That makes it a blood sport not journalism.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 475.

    Completely agrree with Huxley-Orwell here.
    Newspapers need to be regulated, they have been given numerous chances to do this themselves and they have continually failed to do so.

    This was clearly the government just trying to appear to be doing something whilst hoping the problem will just disappear so they dont have to do anything.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 474.

    Without a free press I guarantee we would not know about ministerial expenses fraud and many other things that we NEEDED to know about.

    There are already laws in place which the media companies broke. They are being dealt with. I really don't understand why any more regulation is required.

    I know lefties are all for it, look at the USSR, the Stasi in East Germany, do we really want to go there?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 473.

    452.modharry
    Class background is no excuse, neither are "opiate of the masses" protests. Money is power and by giving them your money, you give them power and make a rod for your own back. If you were an upper class sky suscriber I'd say the same thing. If everybody of all classes stopped subscribing to sky, you'd probably have free football on the BBC again. Take some responsibility !

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 472.

    Just one thought:

    Cameron argues that it is the responsibility of elected politicians to decide how to act on a report rather than unthinkingly accept the findings of an unelected official. Reasonable argument, but ...

    If that's the case, why should we unthinkingly accept the verdict that Jeremy Hunt is in the clear?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 471.

    Leaving aside phone hacking and other illegal acts which the police should deal with, what would a regulatory body stop happening? Ethical behaviour is very difficult to define. To expose corruption for example needs detailed investigation into private lives. I just dont think this will work.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 470.

    Mr Cameron was going to implement recommended legislation if The Leveson Report was not bonkers. Since there are no reports of the report being bonkers whey doesn't Mr Cameron do the honourable thing. One begs the question what was the point of an enquiry when he had no intention of doing anything recommeded by Leveson.

    I am still asking - what is Mr Cameron hiding or hoping to hide?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 469.

    The press are now dining in the gutter outside the Last Chance saloon. They seem to enjoy the turnip ends and carrot tops forgetting that this is not the fare that gentlemen such as they claim to be would consume.

    They seem unable to understand that if they tried to be respectable their diet would greatly improve and we would not have to tolerate their cultivated vulgarity.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 468.

    439.its good up north
    If I gave you a report with a load of complex recommendations would you accept it without questioning parts of it?
    ==
    The report is large but the recommendations are straightforward and would have been an option considered by Cameron months back.

    As a slimy politican he is trying to look fair and open minded. He may also be leaving a U-turn option open.

  • rate this
    +72

    Comment number 467.

    Have to agree with lot of comments here - I fully believe in freedom of speech/press in theory-but reality of lot of press today is hounding of innocents who have little means to defend themselves. This cannot be justified - press have failed to regulate themselves in past, so they must be made to by independent body which has full back up of law. Cameron is nothing but hypocrite for opposing this

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 466.

    439.its good up north

    '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.

    Really?

    The entire inquiry and the judge he so called trusted has stated what to do about the findings, then we have the right wing nut-jobs on the daily mail who have not only sidelined the evidence, carry on regardless.

    Attacking leveson?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 465.

    I don't understand, we have laws already that control press activities, just nobody seems keen to enforce them. Lets start charging and jailing journalists who have broken the law in pursuit of their stories, before we go running around creating new laws.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 464.

    Just read the most negatively rated comments and the point that you're all neglecting is the privacy of individuals. Furthermore, freedom is all well and good, but it comes at a potential cost and people could and unfortunately do exploit it, so it needs regulating.

 

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