Monday, December 3, 2012

A reaction to Leveson's report

I am in shock as I find myself agreeing with David Cameron. It's an odd feeling and not one I recommend but I feel I have to. Lord Leveson's report has been published and people are looking for a solid outcome from the whole nasty episode. Leveson makes a not unreasonable suggestion about a voluntary self regulatory body with a carrot and stick system to encourage editors and publishers to sign up. All very good, but why? The press have a system of self regulation and the country has laws to protect people against the lowest behaviour of the press. Those laws are being demonstrated in the current court case against some of the hacking scandals biggest culprits.

So where did the system break down? Was it the laws not existing? Did news editors find some loophole in the system and exploit it? No, they broke the law (allegedly) and have been charged accordingly. Surely this is the result, the blood the public are baying for? The system failed to stop this practice soon enough, that bit is true, but it didn't fail because the system to stop it wasn't in place, it failed because individuals who were meant to safe guard that system had been corrupted. Adding regulations to the press will not stop this happening again as these regulations could be as easily ignored as the current ones were, as could any law until the legal system catches up with you. A system to safeguard whistle-blowers and monitor the relationship between the press, government and the police is needed but not more regulation.

When someone breaks the law and gets away with it you don't change the law, you change the investigative system, review safeguards and systems of protection. The law remains, adding more laws does nothing to prevent others from breaking the original law. Enforce the current laws properly, don't introduce new ones.

All that said the report is very careful not to suggest much beyond a voluntary self regulatory system. So where's the issue? As far as the nuts and bolts there is not much of one but in the wonderful world of spin and a knee jerk tabloid press there is a big one as the reality won't be reported. Instead it will be, and already has been, all about the government regulating of the press. An issue that any fan of press freedoms should be wary of but not one that the suggestions in this report really affect. There is no government regulation or legal obligation to follow the self regulation suggested, it's all very nicey nice.. And here's where I do not agree with Cameron, his comments on the report do nothing to dispel the notion that there is more to it then this but instead reinforce them. It's a dangerous suggestion that has implications all over the world. The bastion of press freedom introduces press regulations. For propaganda purposes it adds weight to leaders who look less favourably on civil liberties and press freedoms.

Ironically, the recommended regulations will go no way towards stopping the sort of reporting that allows the press to hide the facts behind scaremongering.

So when all is said and done the current law is protection enough, it just needs to be enforced properly, but if the suggestions made by Leveson are brought in nothing much will change with the UK press. However its image across the globe will be permanently affected and for that reason the lesser of two evils in this case is not to implement Leveson's suggestions on regulation but to punish those responsible for breaking the current laws.

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