The Society of Editors today called on all parliamentary candidates to pledge their support for a free and independent media and back major reform of the libel laws.
In a dossier that shows how media freedom has been undermined further since Britain’s press was described as only "half free" by the then editor of the Sunday Times, Harold Evans, editors call for:
- Recognition of the role of the media in a free and democratic society.
- The principle of the freedom of the media to be enshrined in any new constitutional legislation.
- Candidates to recognise that the media’s role in uncovering the parliamentary expenses scandal will, in the long term, enhance respect for politics.
- Root and branch reform of libel laws and regulations to stop lawyers profiteering from no-win, no-fee cases.
- Politicians to accept that the media should be encouraged rather than hindered in its work of exposing wrong-doing.
SoE president Donald Martin, editor-in-chief of the Herald and Times, Glasgow, said: “It is simply astonishing that in the first decade of the 21st century there are now more threats to the media than when Harry Evans called us to arms in 1974.
“All parties claim to support freedom of expression. We shall look at this regularly and at the election after this one to see if they have lived up to those commitments.
While the media may be imperfect, it must be free, warts and all, to investigate, expose and criticise on behalf of the public.”
The dossier has been written by Peter Cole, Professor of Journalism at Sheffield University.