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 623.

    The skill of regulating the media is to be found in the punishments meted out and the deterrents set, if they are toothless they will have no bite nor grip!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 622.

    DC and Hunt need to come clean as to what they were really up to on Murdoch's behalf behind the scenes, and leading up to the B Sky B bid attempt to simply wave it through??

    Was Murdoch actually inside British Government and directing matters??

    Caught with their naughty right wing trousers down it seems to me !!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 621.

    PCC MK2 isn’t a viable option. And anyone who has read anything about the way innocent people like Chris Jefferies have been treated by the tabloid press will know this is not just about celebrities. I cannot see how Levinson’s proposals will effect press freedom as I cannot see how, other than setting up law to create the independent body, Government needs to be involved.

  • rate this
    +66

    Comment number 620.

    Freedom of the press means the freedom to publish without interference (particularly from the state) it does NOT mean the freedom to publish whatever you want, regardless of the accuracy of it and not be held to account when it is shown to be a pack of lies.

    Passing a law that requires the press to be independently regulated does not mean Parliament is taking away freedom of the press

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 619.

    Cameron will be backed by the press at election time after this has been forgotten by most people. The press will thank him with the usual biased coverage and countless usandthem stories about scroungers and immigrants. I'd love to see the texts on his phone LOL! He knows this will be forgotten just like the bank reforms, the G4S debacle, and many others. Bread, butter, side, turkey, vote, xmas

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 618.

    We can see why the press like to make friends with politicians. It ensures that they can keep playing the cat-and-mouse game with self-regulation, which never really works because of having the poachers in charge of game-keeping.

  • Comment number 617.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 616.

    this country has freedom of speech, thats a good thing. what it does not have and should never have is a freedom of privacy invasion. the media have enough politicians in there back pockets to ensure they will never be legislated by law. when and if it ever comes to a vote in parliament or house of lords it will let you know who is in the media pocket, as the media will force there vote regardless

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 615.

    conservative minister agrees with the PM - this is news? If she'd stood up to cameron and said she agreed with the report, it might be news

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 614.

    Cameron had his own agenda on this issue from day1. No report was going to change that.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 613.

    The Press has been hoist by its own petard, it had wide ranging freedoms which it has totally abused. It spite of that we need to find a balance that maintains the right of true investigative journalism to exist.

    I do find it ironic however that New Labour attack the Tories. They were most experts in manipulating the press and turned their own spin into an art form!! Abject hypocrites!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 612.

    Perhaps after yesterday's performance Mr Cameron would be better suited to running a gutter newspaper than running the country.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 611.

    I have never bought a newspaper and never will. I do my own research. Being spoon fed knowledge has it's consequences, which is what this is really about.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 610.

    I urge everyone to read this article on hacking by Steve Coogan :

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/29/we-have-been-betrayed-by-cameron

    The final paragraph contains a hilarious comment about the Daily Mail.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 609.

    What depresses me is who is going to take notice of those of us who believe the press have been given enough opportunities to regulate themselves and failed, and want something more robust, underpinned by law, to protect innocent individuals. Where will our voice be heard against the thousands of column inches that the press have daily access to in order to make their case against?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 608.

    Papers are businesses who make money by advertising sales and circulation. If a paper's actions force it to lose readers or advertising revenue it will change its ways. What "did it for" for NoW was advertisers pulling out. If you don't like the product, don't buy it - you have the power to effect change.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 607.

    "What shocks me is the audacity of the right, to bury their own greed that caused the whole financial problem in the first place.
    Leveson is right"

    Stop all debate immediately...this man has all the answers!!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 606.

    We all know why Cameron is against a independent regulator as this would hurt his body Murdock and his right-wing, xenophobic propaganda media organisation. For how stupid does he think the public is not seeing through the lines here?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 605.

    Is there something wrong with telling the truth and gaining information by fair means or does everything have to be sensationalised before it's fit for publication.

    I don't want the press to have it's hands tied behind it's back but I do want to read the truth without havignt ot constantly debate whether what I'm reading or listening to is true.

    We will or have become a nation of cynics

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 604.

    Hard to fathom what all the fuss is about regarding regulation. We have a broadcasting authority to regulate broadcasting. The BBC operates under a charter established by Parliament, the Overseas Service is funded by direct government grant, and Parliament has to approve the level of the license fee. So what makes "news"papers and the print media so special?

 

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