Impress has been recognised as an approved regulator by the Press Regulation Panel under the Royal Charter.
The major concern for Index on Censorship remains Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which sets out that an organisation which does not join a recognised regulator but falls under its remit (through being considered a “relevant publisher”) will potentially become subject to exemplary damages should they end up in court, and could also be forced to pay the costs of their opponents. While that remains on the statute and while there is an approved regulator, there is a significant threat to press freedom in the UK.
Though the current government has said it will not enforce Section 40 who knows what a future government might do.
Index on Censorship has fought for free speech since 1972, and as publishers ourselves, we will not join a regulator that has to be approved by a body created by the state. This means we – and many other small publishers – could face crippling costs in any dispute, threatening investigative journalism or those who challenge the powerful or the wealthy.
Index has called for cheaper mediation in press disputes as we, like Impress funder Max Moseley and Impress chair, Walter Merricks, believe this is better for free speech. Where we disagree is in the need for a regulator to be recognised by a panel appointed via the state – or for law that makes it, in effect, compulsory to join an approved regulator or face punitive costs.
From Private Eye, also opposing this awful proposed law, I learn that publications would be required to pay the costs of plaintiffs regardless of whether what they wrote was true and/or in the public interest.
A windfall for dodgy businessmen, MPs’ expenses-racketeers, and other no-gooders. Also for Russian oligarchs who exploit British courts, and for foreign rulers who use these courts to silence their opponents.
This is far worse than the existing libel laws which also hamper independent publishing.