Gilmour heaps scorn on press 'poodles'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

ONE OF Baroness Thatcher's ministers, Lord Gilmour, last night accused her of vandalising the best television in the world and pandering to the world's worst newspapers, writes Anthony Bevins.

Calling for curbs on the tabloid press in an address at the Council for Freedom of Information's annual awards ceremony in the City of London, Lord Gilmour said many were afraid of trespassing on the sacred ground of press freedom.

But He heaped scorn on the tabloids, which displayed all the arrogance of unreformed trade unions, and he added: 'The same editors and journalists who were poodles to Lady Thatcher for 10 years now solemnly assert that any measures that are brought in to civilise the press will turn it into poodles of the Government . . . .

'Papers which toadied to a right-wing government for a decade cannot convincingly now pretend that they are really underdogs at heart.'

Urging support for Sir David Calcutt's recommendations for a privacy law and bans on trespass and telephone interception, Lord Gilmour, former editor of the Spectator, said he would also back a statutory tribunal with powers to compel publication of adjudications and corrections. But he said new curbs should be balanced by new freedoms: a statutory right of access to official information and a relaxation of libel law.

A Freedom of Information Act would improve democracy. 'But it would, of course, also help the serious segment of the press which is greatly hampered by the pervasive secrecy of British government, and it might even encourage the inferior section to pay greater attention to public issues than to private tittle-tattle.'

Freedom debate, page 5