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Leveson and Liberty

I was surprised that Liberty seemed to be backing a role for government (through Ofcom) in monitoring the activity of the press regulator. However, This story in the Mail on Sunday appears to contradict this.

Why should those whose function is to investigate wrongdoing by the powerful be held to higher standards than anyone else in society?

Judges have a different view on communication and information than others. They tend to believe that it is better to be tightly controlled. Hence it is not surprising that he came up with an idea to stop journalists squirreling away information in the hope that at some stage it might be useful. The point about that is that at the start they don't know for certain that it is useful. Hence if you apply a public interest test to that process at that stage then you basically stop the collection of information. Even Ed Milliband could see that this was wrong.

The timing of the Welsh Government's attempt to censor Pobl y Cwm (see here) could not have been more opportune.

Here is a government using an Ofcom regulatory process in an attempt to stop the republication of a program for exactly the same sort of reasons that Leveson would wish to stop things being published. The difference is that Ofcom is responsible to the UK government and not the Welsh Government.

Leveson has a lot of good proposals in it, such as limits on newspapers employing ex police officers are columnists (for a while). However, as a whole it is an attack on free speech and the accountability of the powerful.

A number of journalists broke the law and the police failed to investigate and prosecute. It is the issues of the failure of the rule of law that need to be looked at not questions as to how tightly we can bind up the media with the consequence of protecting the powerful.

A press subject to the Leveson report as a whole cannot be described as "free".

Comments

Unknown said…
Liberty made it clear in its response to Leveson on Thursday that it was against any form of compulsory regulation:
http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/media/press/2012/liberty-responds-to-leveson-report.php
John Hemming said…
That is not that clear and I remember getting an initial response that supported the government through ofcom being involved in recognition.

I accept that this may have been in the confusion around the release.

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