Tuesday 7 February 2012

Indy backing for Paul Dacre's new press card plan

The Independent in a leader today backs the idea, put forward at the Leveson Inquiry by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, that a new press body should control the issuing of press cards for journalists.

Dacre told the inquiry yesterday that the new press cards would be a kitemark for responsible journalists and those found guilty of malpractice could have their press cards withdrawn and be "struck off" in the the way the General Medical Council disciplines doctors.

The Independent leader says: "Mr Dacre was right that the idea that journalists should be licensed by the state is repellent to the fundamentals of press freedom. But there is merit in his suggestion for a body replacing, or sitting alongside, the existing Press Complaints Commission, which would be charged with the wider upholding of media standards.

"One of its functions might be the issuing of a press card which could be suspended or withdrawn from individuals who gravely breach those standards. And while some people will argue that a kitemark for professional journalism might threaten freedom of expression in an age when much news and comment originates with bloggers and social networks, there is no danger to that freedom in giving the public what might be called a quality reassurance. Some information sources are more reliable than others.

"Bodies such as the Jockey Club, the Law Society and the General Medical Council supervise their own spheres of professional activity. There is no reason why a collective of media organisations should not together do the same for journalism. The proposal has the potential to improve the standing of the industry, and act in the interests of our wider democracy."

  • The NUJ is likely to fiercely resist any move which would take the issuing of press cards out of its hands. The union fought hard to be classed as a "gatekeeper" under the present press card issuing system, which was brought in after the Met Police decided it no longer wanted to be responsible for issuing press cards in London.
  • Simon Carr in the Independent today has a pop at Robert Jay QC, the lead counsel at the Leveson Inquiry. Carr writes: "There is something in Mr Jay's manner that would start a fight in a pub. Not just the beard, or the passive combativeness. No, he insinuates mean motives into his questions, and sometimes when he finishes his question he leaves his mouth open. It hangs there, disbelievingly. Try that in the Garrick Club and you'd leave without your teeth."

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