The Leveson debate has been polarised and cast simply as a battle between those who “accept” the judge’s recommendations and those who “reject” them.
Index welcomed the establishment of the Inquiry, and took an active part in it. There is, as we have pointed out, much to praise in Lord Justice Leveson’s findings and recommendations. This includes:
- A more balanced press council, reflecting society and not just publishers, and
- Clear guidelines on public interest, ethics and standards, which are all for the benefit of the press.
But all that is good in the report can be achieved without statutory regulation and political interference in the form of new laws on the press. Index believes that:
- A law specifically affecting the press, no matter how “light touch”, damages the freedom of the press. David Cameron appears to understand this, and Index welcomes the government’s stance in not reaching for new laws to fix problems that are not actually matters of law.
- There are already many laws which apply to the abuses carried out by the press — libel, contempt, privacy, and more. While some of these laws are problematic, and Index has sought to reform them, properly applied they should achieve the correct balance between a free press and other civil rights, without the need for additional statutes.
- More press laws would be bad for free speech in the UK and set a bad example for the rest of the world. A tough but voluntary regulator is the best way to ensure a free press and a fair society.
The full paper can be read in a PDF format.