NEWS
Index on Censorship’s response to the Leveson report
15 Feb 2013
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP
Index on Censorship opposes recommendations for the statutory underpinning of press regulation

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Index urges that there is a serious, considered debate about Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations. The free speech organisation opposes the statutory underpinning of press regulation proposed by Lord Justice Leveson.

Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship said:

 We consider that the statutory-voluntary approach to independent press regulation would undermine press freedom in the UK. However, we support the proposal for cheap, effective arbitration, which would help victims get swift redress to their complaints.

Index welcomed the response of the Prime Minister to the Inquiry’s findings. In a statement to parliament, David Cameron said that he had “serious concerns” about passing legislation in relation to the press, which he rightly said would be an “enormous” step.

Kirsty Hughes said: “We share David Cameron’s concerns that statutory underpinning would undermine free speech, and could be the start of a slippery slope of government interference in the media.”

Index’s response to Lord Justice Leveson’s main recommendations are:

Statutory underpinning of an ‘independent’ regulatory body: Statutory underpinning of an ‘independent’ and ‘voluntary’ regulator is a contradiction in terms. Any law which sets out the criteria that the press must meet, by definition introduces some government or political control of the media. Politicians of all hues have an interest in getting the most positive media coverage they can. Keeping print media independent of government so journalists can report on political debate and decision-making, robustly and without fear, is fundamental. Even “light” statutory regulation could easily be revisited, toughened and potentially abused once the principle of no government control of the press is breached.

Arbitration service:  Index welcomes Lord Justice Leveson’s proposal for cheap, effective arbitration.

The press and the police: Index is concerned that proposals to restrict contact between senior police officers and the press could deter legitimate journalism and whistleblowing.

Voluntary membership of regulator: Index suggests that the statutory-voluntary approach proposed by Lord Leveson contains a catch-22 and is set up to fail. While the paragraphs describing the regulator say membership is voluntary, paragraph 23 of the executive summary states that the ‘recognition body’ (suggested to be Ofcom) should only recognise and certify the regulator as ‘sufficiently effective’ if it covers ‘all signifcant news publishers’. This means the proposed system can only work – and be recognised in the way the statute would demand – if no-one exercises their right not to join. If they do exercise this right, then the regulator will fail to meet the required standards.

For further comment on Leveson’s proposals, please contact Pam Cowburn on 07749785932 or [email protected]

Background
Index’s chief executive on why Leveson goes too far

&

Index Policy Note: Freedom of the Press, Governance and Press Standards: Key Challenges for the Leveson Inquiry

 

7 responses to “Index on Censorship’s response to the Leveson report”

  1. […] Read our analysis of the Leveson Inquiry report’s recommendations here. […]

  2. […] and kill investigative journalism stone dead – and, now I come to think of it, more babies too. Index on Censorship, English PEN and the Committee to Protect Journalists say that basic freedoms are in danger. Like a […]

  3. […] and kill investigative journalism stone dead – and, now I come to think of it, more babies too. Index on Censorship, English PEN and the Committee to Protect Journalists say that basic freedoms are in danger. Like a […]

  4. […] kill investigative journalism stone dead – and, now I come to think of it, more babies too. Index on Censorship, English PEN and the Committee to Protect Journalists say that basic freedoms are in danger. Like a […]

  5. I meant the Desmond problem, not the Dacre problem. If there is indeed a Dacre problem it’s not the one I meant.

  6. I’ve checked out your analysis of the voluntary nature of any new regulatory body and it seems you are correct. It seems the recommendations are designed to encourage full participation by making full participation a requirement. How this will work in practice is probably that OfCom (or whoever is assigned the validator role) will require the industry to keep plugging away at a new regulator until it is able to gain full membership of all the significant news publishers. In that respect, it is still entirely voluntary in its design, but will eliminate the Dacre problem.

    I’m not sure it is quite the catch-22 you perceive, as full membership has always been the ultimate aim. The statutory underpinning merely requires that the industry agrees on a regulator that is sufficiently independent and effective, which has so far been its failing.

  7. […] Index on Censorship did speak for me: Index on Censorship opposes recommendations for the statutory underpinning of press […]

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