MPs, ignore David Cameron and vote for a free press

Share

We all believe in a free press, don't we? But if I've learnt anything over the course of the Leveson inquiry, it's that it means different things to different people. Take the former editor of The Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie, who boasted that it meant doing what he liked and not checking sources. He used his freedom to produce an untrue front-page story which claimed that Liverpool fans urinated on police officers and picked the pockets of dying fellow supporters during the Hillsborough disaster. "The Truth", MacKenzie called it in a brazen headline.

Another Sun luminary, associate editor Trevor Kavanagh, offered a dire warning after the Prime Minister abruptly withdrew from cross-party talks on press regulation last week. "Without a free press, we will suffer ever more suffocating bureaucracy and more undiscovered corruption in our public life," he thundered. Could he offer an example? "Think of the Hillsborough cover-up." Consistency? How are you spelling that?

Here's another example of press freedom, courtesy of the Daily Mail. Banner headlines about men falsely accused of rape have created the impression that it's a common occurrence. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the Director of Public Prosecutions pointed out last week, but the myth gets in the way of successful prosecutions. That's why third-party complaints are essential in any new scheme of press regulation, and a key Leveson recommendation. They would also allow members of the public to challenge exploitative images of women, such as the Sun's front-page of Reeva Steenkamp after she was killed by Oscar Pistorius.

The impact of this material appearing in newspapers every day is a serious social issue, but Cameron's royal charter would allow very few third-party complaints to get to the new regulator. He would leave ethics to right-wing editors who have failed to enforce standards in the industry, allowing the phone-hacking scandal to scar its reputation. What he's proposing is a regulatory system so weak and industry-friendly that it's a close relation of the discredited Press Complaints Commission.

There's apoplexy in some parts of the industry at the notion that anyone else, whether working journalist or victim of intrusion, be involved in a debate about biased reporting, misogyny and attacks on asylum seekers. But if papers want to continue publishing this stuff, why shouldn't they expect to be challenged, like any other vested interest? Their biggest defender is a weak PM who seems to have forgotten the public interest and devoted himself to watering down Leveson's quite modest proposals.

We both know how powerful the right-wing press is, and I knew the risk I was taking when I decided to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry. But I believe in a free press that holds the powerful to account, and is not merely a slogan to deflect criticism of inexcusable behaviour. I hope MPs will bear that in mind when they vote tomorrow night.

www.politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum