Miscreant reporters should be struck off, says shadow minister

 

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Journalists found guilty of gross malpractice should be "struck off" from their trade in a similar way to doctors, the shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis suggested yesterday.

Mr Lewis called for mistakes made on the front page of newspapers to be corrected on the front page as part of a shake-up of press regulation.

But he failed to describe how such a system of independent regulation would work in practice and the Labour leadership quickly distanced itself from any suggestion of statutory control of print media organisations.

"That's not something we would support at all," said a Labour source. "And exactly how self-regulation works is up to the Leveson Inquiry."

Mr Lewis acknowledged that links between Labour and Rupert Murdoch's papers, which include The Sun, The Times and the now defunct News of the World, had been "complex and tortuous".

But he added: "What can never be complex or tortuous is the responsibility of politicians to stand up in the public interest without fear or favour."

He said Labour would produce stricter rules on media ownership but did not say whether he felt under the present rules Mr Murdoch had too much influence. "Never again can one commercial organisation have so much power and control over our media," he said, adding: "In the period ahead, Labour will bring forward proposals for new, tougher cross-media ownership laws."

While a free press was "non-negotiable", Mr Lewis said: "We need a new system of independent regulation, including proper, like-for-like redress which means that mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page.

"And as with other professions, the industry should consider whether people guilty of gross malpractice should be struck off."

In a message to Mr Murdoch, he said: "Your newspapers and Sky TV are popular with millions of British people. However – and we should have said this a long time ago – Mr Murdoch: never again think you can assert political power in pursuit of your commercial interests or ideological beliefs."

Delegates at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool were asked to back a motion calling for Mr Murdoch's son James to stand down as chairman of BSkyB.

The Rhondda MP, Chris Bryant, an outspoken critic of News International, admitted Labour became too close to the company during the party's 13 years in government. He told the conference: "There's another scandal that we allowed it to happen. We should choose our bedfellows with a little more care."

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