Two views on Leveson: Minister argues meddle with democracy while retired teacher vilified by the press says scurrilous abuses must be stopped



Why we need tough newspaper rules - NOT MPs meddling with our democracy

Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture

What emerged during the Leveson Inquiry horrified everyone. Those who suffered at the hands of the press, suffered badly and now they
need the discussions about implementing Leveson to end and action to be taken.

We all want to see a tough new system that offers real justice, but we also want to make sure
the press – which underpins our democracy and holds those in power to account – remains free.

The Conservative approach has advocated a Royal Charter solution that would put selfregulation of the press beyond the interference of politicians now and in the future.

It would allow us to implement the toughest system of press regulation this country has ever
seen and implement it swiftly.

Maria Miller MP, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Minister for Women and Equalities
Christopher Jefferies

Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture (left) and Christopher Jefferies (right)


It would demand prominent apologies, £1 million fines, an arbitration service free for complainants and a speedy complaints handling service. It will offer the tough new system victims have
been calling for.

Labour and the Lib Dems have argued for full statutory legislation. But now they have
changed their minds and we welcome their acceptance of the Royal Charter approach.

However, there is still a considerable gap between us – their proposals remain wedded
to statute and the possibility of political interference. Tomorrow will be a debate about the difference between state regulation and a free press. It is vital the fundamental difference and the consequences of that difference are understood.

Our democracy is safeguarded by the press being able to hold those in power to account; by
ensuring politicians cannot control the press. If you have a law, the balance of power is shifted and politicians are in control.

I hope all Members will agree that justice for victims and a tough new system is vital but that it must be balanced with the need to stop politicians interfering with the press, for the press to remain free.

No, this is not a threat to free speech... it will stop scurrilous abuses

Christopher Jefferies

Retired teacher Christopher Jefferies was vilified by the press after his wrongful arrest for the murder of Joanna Yeates in 2010. He successfully sued eight newspapers.

I welcome tomorrow’s open and democratic parliamentary debate, which I hope will allow many misconceptions about Lord Leveson’s recommendations to be clarified, and lead to the
establishment of an independent regulator, underpinned by statute, to monitor press self-regulation.

Such legislation is no threat to free speech, as some have suggested; rather it will protect members of the public from the more scurrilous journalistic abuses, which, in my case, were responsible for the printing of lies and unfounded allegations.

With tough legislation governing press standards I believe the situation in which I found myself would be less likely to occur.

A Royal Charter, such as David Cameron proposes, is far from being the most desirable way of implementing Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals, since it is undemocratic.

It can be altered at any time without democratic debate, by the Privy Council, which largely comprises
the need to stop politicians interfering with the
press, for the press to remain free.

Government ministers who have shown themselves to be all too susceptible to pressure from editors and proprietors.

If a Royal Charter, backed by statute to prevent future changes without parliamentary agreement and fully compliant with Leveson’s proposals, can attract cross-party support, it must be welcomed as a way out of the impasse.

What is being recommended is a system of self-regulation that is transparent and accountable; where journalism is seen to be
governed by a code of ethics of which it can be proud.

Newspapers have a crucial role to play in guarding our freedoms, but responsible journalism has nothing to fear from Lord Leveson’s proposals. 


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