A two-part inquiry was announced to the start of an investigation that would be examiningthe role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal on 13th July 2011, appointingLord Justice Leveson chairman of the inquiry. Part one will investigate the culture, practices,ethics of the media and the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians.It will make proposals for the future of press regulation and governance, dependable withmaintaining freedom of the press and ensuring the highest ethical and professionalstandards. Lord JusticeLeveson opened the hearings on 14 November 2011, saying: “The press provides anessential check on all aspects of public life. That is why any failure within the media affectsall of us. At the heart of this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards theguardians?”
Obviously some of the main points of Levesons investigation werethe culture, practices, ethics of the media and the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians. Therefore, it led to awhole new inquiry into how the Press and Media is regulated for the public because it would seem that it is just one whole hypodermic needle in the media world, which is seen as biased and unfair."Lord Levesons exhaustive inquiry into the media is due to report on Thursday with recommendations on the future regulation of the press and conduct between the press, politicians and police." The Leveson Inquiry has heard appalling evidence of Press malpractice, abuse and criminality. People are optimistic thatLeveson will put forward recommendations to ensure this stops and surprisingly, given what has happened, there already seems to be good Press laws which are backed by a code. The problem is you cant go to law unless you are rich, and several national newspapers simply ignore their own code. The hope is that Leveson willrecommend that the power to enforce the law and the industrys owncode be given to an entirely independent tribunal to which everyone has access irrespective of their means.
British journalism has been poisoned in recent years by something that happened at most of our nationalnewspapers. They became unaccountable, and then they became arrogant and cruel. An editor at the News of the World summed up the attitude. "This is what we do, he said. We go out and destroy other peoples lives."Thats not what most journalists think, but nor, sadly, has it been the view of a tiny minority. Almost every national newspaper participated in the attempt to destroy the lives of Gerry and Kate McCann. Eight newspapers tried to destroy the life of Christopher Jefferies, the Bristol teacher wrongly accused ofmurder. This is bad for a profession whose mission, I was taught as a young reporter, is to bear witness to the world in a truthful way. "I want a body capable of asking the hard questions, pointing the finger of blame and ensuring that lessons are learned. It must be independent of the industry and of government and it should have the clout to ensure that mighty news organisations take heed." There are sections of the press that dont inform the public, which seems to be aimed at providing littlemore than sensation and salacious forms of entertainment. Under the current system, the Press Complaints Commission has been unable to reign in the excesses of certain sections of the press, and it stretchescredulity that one more attempt at self-regulation will result in something different. Unlike the PCC, thisnew body should have powers to initiate investigations, plus significant powers to discipline newspapers that flout journalist standards and make guilty publications compensate their victims.
However, what seemed like a mis-regulation by the Press, turned intoeven more by the hacking of phones and the discovery of David Camerons and Rebekah Brooks cosy texts. They claimed it waspurely innocent texting and no harm was done, although several conversations between had been brought up in court as suspicious, therefore the Press tried to expose an affair that they saw as anopportunity for a good story and therelationship between Cameron andBrooks was either to be an affair or an exchange of policies, both ofwhich were seen as a conspiracy and looked bad on The News of the World and the Government.
In his evidence to the Leveson inquiry, Cameron acknowledged that he and Brooks had becomeparticularly friendly after she married his childhood friend Charlie Brooks - who lives in his Oxfordshire constituency. Despite revealing the close relationship he holds with Brooks, the PM insisted it did notdemonstrate any wrong-doing. Brooks has previously laid bare the closeness of her friendship with the prime minister - including his habit of signing off texts "LOL" apparently in the belief it meant "lots of love". He sent a message urging her to "keep your head up" when she too resigned over the phone hackingscandal and expressed regret that he could not be more loyal, she disclosed to the inquiry last month. Cameron launched an angry attack on his predecessor Gordon Brown for suggesting that the Conservative Party had done a "deal" with Rupert Murdoch to bring in policies favored by News Corporation in return for favorable press coverage. Cameron told the inquiry that while he wanted towin over the newspapers this did not mean he promised to give media proprietors such as Murdoch a "better time" on various policies.
David Cameron has rejected the central proposal of the Leveson inquiry, for a statutory body to oversee the new independent press regulator, warning that legislation could ultimately infringe on free speech and a free press. Cameron warned that the legislation required to underpin the regulatory body would be morecomplicated and create a vehicle for politicians in the future to impose regulation and obligations on the press.He said other options should be explored for putting in place incentives, providing reassurance to the public and ensuring other Leveson proposals were acted upon. Clegg told MPs: "On the basic model of a new self-regulatory body, established with a change to the law in principle, I believe this can be done in a proportionate and workable way." The Lib Dem leader, who raised concerns about Levesons proposal to give Ofcom a role and joined Miliband in questioning the proposals on data protection, said he understood the "legitimate" concerns about legislation. But he said: "Lord Justice Leveson has considered these issues at length. He has found that changing the law isthe only way to guarantee a system of self-regulation which seeks to cover all of the press. And he explains why the system of sticks and carrots he proposes has to be recognized in statute in order to be properly implemented by the courts." Clegg said there was a difficult balancing act, though he said the time had come to end the bullying tactics of the press. He said: "There are two big, liberal principles at play in this debate: on the one hand, the belief that a raucous and vigorous press is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy; on the other, the belief that the vulnerable, the innocent and the weak should be protected from powerful vested interests. "A free press does not mean a press that is free to bully innocent people or free to abuse grieving families. What I want now is for us to strike a better balance between these two liberal principles so that our media can scrutinize the powers that be, but cannot destroy innocent lives. So that the journalists up in the press gallerycan hold us – the politicians – to account, but we can look up to the individuals and families in the public gallery knowing they have the right protections in place."
Leveson found that the existing Press Complaints Commission is not sufficient, and recommends a new independent body, which would have a range of sanctions available to it, including fines and direction of the prominence of apologies and corrections. Membership of the body would be voluntary, but incentivized by schemes such as a kitemark and an inquisitorial arbitration service for handling tort claims such as libel and breach of privacy, and by allowing exemplary damages to be awarded in cases brought against non-participants in the scheme,something not usually part of English law. Leveson rejected the characterization of his proposal as "statutory regulation of the press". Leveson also made recommendations regarding the Data Protection Act, and powers and duties of the Information Commissioner, and about conduct of relations between the press, the police, and politicians.New watchdog: Create a new independent press watchdog with no MPs or serving newspaper editors allowed on the panel. It should beunderpinned by statute, but free of "any influence from industry and government".Legislation: The industry should set up and organise the watchdog, but new legislation should "place an explicit duty on the government touphold and protect the freedom of the press".Fines: The watchdog would be able to fine press organisations that breach its code by as as much as one per cent of their turnover with amaximum fine of £1 million.Speed: The new watchdog should be able to arbitrate civil legal claims against the press. The process should be a "fair, quick and inexpensive".No obligation: Membership of the new body would not be a legal obligation. But any newspaper that opts out would not benefit from thereduced legal fees enjoyed by members of the new arbitration service.Phone hacking: There are no findings on any individual in the report, but Lord Leveson is not convinced phone hacking was confined to one ortwo individuals.Havoc: The damage caused by "a recklessness in prioritising sensational stories" has damaged people like the Dowlers and the McCanns.Fame: Celebrities have a right to privacy, too. Leveson found "ample evidence" that parts of the press decided actors, footballers, writers andpop stars were "fair game, public property with little if any entitlement to any sort of private life or respect for dignity". He adds: "Theirfamilies, including their children, are pursued and important personal moments are destroyed."Covert surveillance: The press has been willing to use covert surveillance, blagging and deception to get stories in cases where it is difficult tosee any public interest.Complaints: Those who seek to complain about newspaper coverage of their affairs are rarely taken seriously enough. Leveson found "acultural tendency within parts of the press vigorously to resist or dismiss complainants almost as a matter of course".Police: There is a perception that senior Met officers were "too close" to News International, which was "entirely understandable" givenpolice actions and decision-making and the extent of hospitality police officers received from journalists. "Poor decisions, poorly executed, allcame together to contribute to the perception." The Mets decision not to reopen the criminal inquiry into phone-hacking was "incrediblyswift" and resulted in a "defensive mindset".
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