The Leveson Inquiry is the enemy of a free press, a showtrial which found the tabloids guilty before it started. David Cameron set it up not to investigate phone-hacking but to sanitise and tame the entire “culture, practice and ethics” of the media. Who needs state censorship, when you can get a polite Lord Justice, his legal lackeys and celebrity chorus to impose a culture of conformism on the press? Freedom of expression and a free press are the fundamental liberties in a civilised society. They are far too important to be left to judges or even Hugh Grant to tamper with. Press freedom is indivisible – it is not to be rationed out like charity to those who meet the moral standards required by Lord Justice Leveson. The British press needs more freedom and openness, not less.
Mick Hume is editor-at-large of spiked and author of There is No Such Thing as a Free Press...And We Need One More Than Ever.
The Leveson Inquiry has revealed not just industrial scale intrusion into the privacy of members of the public, but a culture of bullying at the heart of some newspaper newsrooms. Bullying journalists to write specific stories in specific ways is not consistent with press freedom. The Inquiry is an opportunity both to prevent intrusion and to change the culture of these newsrooms. It’s also an opportunity to distinguish – and better protect – public interest journalism and separate it from the sort of privacy-intrusion-for-profit that has been revealed prior to and during the Inquiry. We hope that Lord Justice Leveson will recommend a new system that better protects the public and that will offer proper public interest defences, within the law, for journalists.
Martin Moore is director of the Media Standards Trust and founder of Hacked Off.