Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Public to be biggest losers in a political game that threatens press freedom and democracy


Release Date: 18 March 2013


[frame align=”right”] CIoJ logo[/frame]MPs must consider the long-term effects on our democracy of beefed-up press regulation when voting on the issue, the CIoJ said.  It will be the public who will be the biggest losers in what is now a political game.

In a free society, a press under state control was a far greater danger than a press out of control, it warned.

The light-touch “statutory underpinning” proposed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats would, if approved by MPs, allow much tougher controls to be imposed by a future Parliament.

The alleged malpractices which led to the Leveson Inquiry and the arrest of dozens of journalists are criminal offences, not ethical misdemeanours. The problem is not a failure of the regulatory system but the failure of the police to enforce the law.

CIoJ President Charlie Harris accused supporters of statutorily-backed ethical regulation, led by Hacked Off, of hijacking the issue to seek revenge on the whole press for the sins of a few journalists on a handful of national newspapers.

“They are using a blunderbuss instead of a sniper,” he said. “What they are proposing will seriously wound totally innocent sections of the press, such as local newspapers which were cleared by Leveson of any wrongdoing.

“Hacked Off and its supporters, including those in all the political parties, know this but don’t care.

The Institute is angry that Hacked Off has been involved in high-level discussions with the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties from which bodies representing rank-and-file journalists have been totally excluded.

“Hacked Off is a small, private lobby group representing the views of a handful of celebrities and MPs with an axe to grind against the press, backed by a cadre of left-wing academics,” Harris said.

“But it has been granted semi-official status, with privileged access to the corridors of power, and allowed to play a central role in the drafting of legislation which could have a profound and dangerous effect on the ability of the press to hold those in power to account.

“This is what Hacked Off and its supporters want, but in a democracy it is totally unacceptable.”