Thursday, 22 October 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: From the fightback begins over Leveson's libel costs plan to leaked Blair memo shows why we need a free press

Professor Tim Luckhurst in the foreword to Leveson's Illegal Legacy report: “In attempting to implement Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendation that exemplary damages should be available against news publishers ‘in actions for breach of privacy, breach of confidence and similar media torts as well as for libel and slander’, the Crime and Courts Act risks embarrassing the country royally. It menaces newspapers with a form of collective punishment for daring to insist upon the independence that allows their readers to trust them. It subjects them to rules expressly intended to impose requirements above and beyond those required by law.”

Nick Cohen on the Spectator: "On 3 November a state-created and state-funded quango called the Press Regulation Panel will start flexing its muscles and its £3 million budget. It will trigger exemplary damages for any news organisation, which loses a ‘news related’ court case, such as a libel or privacy action. A shadowy body called IMPRESS, whose financial backers are a mystery to me, says it will then apply to become the press regulator. If newspapers, magazines and websites fail to join IMPRESS, they will not only face punitive damages, but be forced to pay the other side’s cost in a libel case, regardless of whether they win or lose. Investigative or contentious journalism of any kind will become a formidably risky business in Britain: too risky for all local and most national titles."

Lord Black, speaking at the launch of Leveson's Illiberal Legacy, reported by Press Gazette: “I can certainly think of no other country where newspapers are forced to pay the costs of a trial for defamation where what they said was truthful and accurate, and proved to be so in court. Just think how odious that is in a free society – you can punished for honesty. The repercussions of that are enormous and the controls themselves undoubtedly contrary to the most basic definitions of human rights – on freedom of expression, and on arbitrary discrimination.”

The Times [£] in a leader: "Had the new laws been in force at the time of the parliamentary expenses scandal, every MP involved could have sued The Daily Telegraph, knowing that even if they lost, they would not have to pay the newspaper’s legal fees. Faced with these financial penalties, many editors would simply choose not to risk publishing. Public disquiet over journalistic wrongdoing and phone hacking is perfectly understandable. Effectively forcing the press to sign up to a state-sponsored body, and the stifling of legitimate journalistic inquiry, is not."

Culture secretary John Whittingdale, speaking at the Society of Editors conference: "I have to say that at the moment, I am not convinced the time is right for the introduction of these costs provisions. Given the changes under way within the industry, the introduction of the new exemplary damages provisions, and the pressures on the industry, I question whether this additional step, now, will be positive and will lead to the changes I want to see. My mind is not made up, and I will want to examine the matter further in the coming weeks before taking any decision. But let me be very clear: I would like to see the press bring themselves within the Royal Charter’s scheme of recognition."

Mick Hume on Free Speech NOW!: "No doubt there are many imperfections with the press and the wider media today. But history suggests there is always one thing worse than a free press, and that is its opposite."

Alan Rusbridger, speaking at the Society of Editors' conference: "Of course, there’s no requirement for the press to deal with anyone fairly, impartially or in a balanced way - and, quite often, Fleet Street, relishes the freedom to be as aggressive and biased as it likes. That’s as it should be. But when Fleet Street is in fully cry you don’t half appreciate the BBC’s still small voice of calm."

Simon Schama berates Rod Liddle on Question Time: "Do not presume to lecture me about the inadequacy of an emotional response to mass human suffering. Go back to your journalistic hackery and talk about outcomes, and turn your suburban face away from the plight of the miserable."

Toby Young in the Daily Mail: "According to this high priest of the liberal intelligentsia, Liddle didn’t deserve to be taken seriously because he was a resident of that lower middle-class hinterland that people like Schama only ever see from the business-class cabin of a Boeing 747 as it soars away from Heathrow."

Mail on Sunday in a leader: "Written just before the famous Texas meeting at which Mr Blair is said to have pledged unconditional support for the Iraq invasion, the secret Powell memorandum is a historic document of some significance, especially useful to us because of the disgraceful delay in publishing the Chilcot report. It has the uncomfortable ring of truth. No doubt its publication will be unwelcome to many in our establishment. But it is the task of a free press to report on such things. The Mail on Sunday’s revelation of this inconvenient truth is yet another example of the urgent need to preserve that free press from the growing and real threat of state regulation."


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