Letter: Press regulation: a Bill killed, tragic revelations, the global village, sellers of sleaze

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Sir: You argue (12 January) that it is essential that the press be allowed 'to perform its proper role in a democracy'. May I draw to your attention two recent cases where a local newspaper has in my view fallen a long way short of performing its proper role in a democracy?

In the first case, a school lecturer took his own life in very tragic circumstances. The widow and two teenage children were shocked. However, at the coroner's inquest certain disturbing facts were mentioned and duly reported despite a plea not to do so. The effect of such publication on the children was devastating.

In the second case, another school teacher, in a well-known school in a neighbouring town, was convicted of a misdemeanour. However, it was featured on the front page.

Whenever the press comes under scrutiny, its inevitable response is that criticism is tantamount to censorship which puts democracy at risk. That is not the whole truth.

It is surely beyond dispute that the ordinary man in the street is entitled to redress against a rude, rough and nasty press. At present he has none. The costs of a legal action are prohibitive and no legal aid is available. When will the press accept that it is far more immediately concerned about circulation and hence profit than about democracy?

Yours faithfully,

IAN WILLIAMS

Langley, Warwickshire

13 January

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