Letter: Privacy laws, political hypocrisy and press freedom

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The Independent Online
Sir: The attack on David Mellor by sections of the tabloid press makes it impossible for him to steer through legislation on privacy with any credibility. Even if that legislation were desirable, which it is not, the very organs that have attacked him would argue that the only reason privacy laws were being introduced was to protect powerful politicians from such scrutiny.

Self-serving as these reasons are, there is an element of truth in them. Privacy legislation would only protect the rich and powerful, and these groups already have ample redress via the libel laws, personal influence and other routes inaccessible to most people. They would be used to stifle investigative journalism.

For every politician who has had her or his reputation questioned in the way Mr Mellor's has been, there are many more people whose lives are made miserable by the routine use, by sections of the press, of lies to sell newspapers.

To tackle this, the Campaign for Press & Broadcasting Freedom wrote two Private Member's Bills, for Ann Clwyd (1987) and Tony Worthington (1988), which sought to establish a simple right for ordinary people to have factual inaccuracies in the press corrected, promptly. The government of the day bought off cross-bench support for the Worthington Bill by pretending that the Calcutt Inquiry would come up with a workable solution. Calcutt did not then, and will not now.

Clive Soley has made it clear that he intends to reintroduce a Bill that will establish the right to the correction of factual inaccuracies in the press, and establish a Press Authority to monitor and report on standards. It is only a measure such as this that will begin to erode the current climate of irresponsibility.

Yours faithfully,

T. P. O'MALLEY

National Secretary

Campaign for Press

& Broadcasting Freedom

London, E8

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