March 20, 2013
We can agree that the press had it coming. The victims needed revenge. Celebrities wanted redress. A few tabloid moguls got a bloody nose, and Ed Miliband got to meet Hugh Grant. But what happened on Monday in Westminster was a ludicrous way to engineer a more disciplined press. We do not have an independent regulator, but the agency of a political stitch-up. Any MP who claims this is not statutory regulation is a liar, and should be forced to retract and apologise, or face a million pound fine.
Press laws should not be written in the dead of night by a coalition of those worsted by newspapers. They have produced not just a royal charter, which might be no big deal, but a detailed remit of how a press regulator should operate, down to the prominence of apologies and the size of fines. MPs on Monday were salivating with regulatory power. The truth is that parliament was drinking deep from the well of disgust and revenge. As the veteran MP Peter Lilley bravely remarked, whenever parliament gloats over such deals “we invariably make our worst blunders”.
Last month the distinguished US journalist Lawrence Wright came over to seek British publication of Going Clear, his detailed exposé of Scientology already published in America. He was told by publishers to forget it. His book was not reckless or inaccurate, but the Scientologists would make defending its publication in a London court prohibitively expensive. He went home empty-handed. As Chinese communists can attest, there are many ways to kill free speech short of murder.
This article was posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6:04 am