The Leveson Report was produced after 16 months of painstaking inquiries and questioning. David Cameron was very quick to dismis its central recommendation – that any new press regulator should be “underpinned” by regulation – almost immediately.
The issue of principle is that for the first time we would have crossed the rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land.
We should I believe be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and a free press.
In this House – which has been a bulwark of democracy for centuries – we should think very, very carefully before crossing this line.
Misgivings there may be, but to so lightly sideline the key finding of the inquiry is a betrayal of all the victims who have suffered at the hands of irresponsible journalists. That includes the Dowlers, the McGanns, Christopher Jefferies, the Hillsborough families and – of course – the many public figures who had their phones hacked.
Newspapers have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted to keep their own house in order. When cross-examined at the enquiry, many editors and journalists appeared humbled and promised to do better in the future. Will they?
I’m a big believer in freedom of speech, so I’m wary of any law which could infringe on that even slightly. The press play a key role in democracy by (supposedly) holding our elected politicians to account – those same politicians who have now been invited to draft a new press law.
On the other hand, I think it’s worth remembering that many of the big national titles are owned by large corporate groups whose main purpose is to make money and help their rich owners to exert political influence. If the worst excesses of their muckraking are curbed slightly, I don’t think that is a bad thing. With great power comes great responsibility, etc.
At 2,000 pages the full report is quite heavy reading, but the executive summary is worth a look.