Local editors take fight against stautory regulation to Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Culture Secretary
Four local newspaper editors, whose titles cover the constituencies of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and
Culture Secretary Maria Miller, have voiced their opposition to statutory regulation being imposed on the press.
Their statements have been released by the Newspaper Society which is campaigning against statutory regulation as the Leveson Inquiry prepares to release its recommendations on press regulation.
Simon O’Neill, group editor of the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times which cover the Prime Minister’s Witney constituency, said: “A
free press is essential to a truly democratic society. Weaken the
former and you weaken the latter. It really is as simple as that. There
are no half measures and when it comes to regulation of a free press.
You cannot have ‘a little bit of legislation.’ It’s all or nothing.
“Am I paranoid? You bet I am. There are people in power out there -
politicians and public servants included – who utter fine words about
democracy and accountability and then do all they can to cover up their
corruption and hypocrisy. They have scores to settle.
“The press does have a lot to answer for and, if truth be told, we
have brought much of this upon ourselves. If Leveson flushes out the
immoral, illegal and downright despicable practices of a small section
of our industry, he will have done journalism and society as a whole a
“If he advocates a regulatory body backed by legislation and that
is implemented by this Government, he and every politician who supports
him will go down in history as the people who made future curbs on press
freedom possible… it is society as a whole, as well as the honest,
decent and responsible press vital to a functioning democracy, that will
Jeremy Clifford, editor in chief of The Star and Sheffield Telegraph which cover Clegg’s Sheffield, Hallam constituency, added: “We
have to review the issue of press regulation outside of the hysteria
and disgraceful revelations - and do so in a context of rational
“We cannot allow decisions to be made by politicians who are fast
and loose with their own words, such as Nick Clegg who describes the
press on the one hand as ‘desperate animals around a disappearing
waterhole’ and on the other: ‘The underlying strength of your newspapers
seems to be growing rather than diminishing... you have rates of trust
in what you produce which is the envy of many other parts of the
“The point is that the likes of Mr Clegg draw a distinction between
some of the national newspapers and the local media. But statutory
legislation will not do so. Nor will it be able to constrain or regulate
publishers outside of newspapers - by which I mean the internet and
“So why has self-regulation failed? It has failed because the PCC
has no muscle, or teeth. We in the local press regard a ruling against
us by the PCC as a badge of shame, to be avoided at all costs.
“If that is not now thought to be sufficient to ensure regulation
is to be effective across the entire newspaper industry, listen to Lord
Black's proposals. Preserve self-regulation but give the body teeth, the
power to fine, bind publishers into a contractual relationship of self
governance, with a body that has enforceable powers to investigate
breakdowns in ethical standards and to impose financial sanctions.”
Graeme Huston, editor in chief of South Yorkshire Newspapers which covers Miliband’s Doncaster North constituency, added: “The
breadth and weight of the existing legislation is complemented by the
fact that we in the regional press at least, respect and adhere to the
PCC code of conduct. And of course journalists, like everyone else, must
obey the law.
“In the face of suggestions of further regulation it should be
noted that it is already a difficult and skilled job, in the framework
of the controls described above, to hold those in public office to
“In Doncaster for example, journalists on the weekly Doncaster Free
Press carried out an investigation into a child care services scandal.
This involved the deaths of several children and led to the local
authority being named and shamed in Parliament and taken over by
“We met sometimes ferocious resistance on many levels, but we were
right, and we eventually delivered to our readers a story about
individual tragedies that added up to a matter of national significance.
“The question is would new statutory regulations on the press,
brought about in response to appalling behaviour elsewhere in the
industry, make that kind of story more or less likely to come to light?
Political control could discourage or even snuff out
investigative journalism which is wholly in the public interest.”
Mark Jones, editor of Gazette Newspapers, Basingstoke, which covers s Miller’s Basingstoke constituency, said:“Statutory regulation would be a shackle, and it will inevitably have
an adverse impact on the ability of the press to act in the public
interest. Yes, the press must behave in a fair, decent and responsible
way – and that is what the vast majority of journalists do every day of
“Any journalist, or press outlet, that fails to live up to
recognised standards proposed by a new system of tough, independent
self-regulation deserves to be dealt with and punished – and they would
“To impose statutory regulation is akin to using a sledgehammer to
crack a nut. The responsible majority of the press will suffer, but most
of all, the people of this country, and our democracy, will suffer.”
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
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