Here is the short essay originally posted on my Leveson Report (As It Should Be) project site, explaining my reasons for initiatin the project.
Our right to the text
Every year, our democracy produces billions of words. Parliament publishes Bills, Acts of Parliament, Hansard transcripts of debates and evidence sessions, and Select Committee reports. The Government and its agencies generate policy papers, consultation documents, guidelines, rules and regulations. The judiciary hands down judgements and makes case law. Journalists parse all this information into news and analysis, and civil society groups write their own recommendations for change.
A modern and vibrant democracy must give everyone access to this text. The great parliamentary reformer John Wilkes fought legal battles with the Government to ensure that the deliberations of Parliament were published and available to be scrutinised by those less privileged. Today, this same principle of openness means that accessing all influential documents should be quick and easy. We should also be able work with the text – ‘copying and pasting’ paragraphs into our own documents. We should be able to perform meta-analyses on the documents produced by others, asking whether the words they use shape the policy they make.
The Leveson Report
The Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press, conducted by Lord Justice Leveson in 2012, was a crucial moment in our politics. It examined the collusion of politicians, the police and the press to corrupt our culture and short-circuit our democracy. Its recommendations have huge impact on the idea of a free press. The report of the inquiry, published in November 2012, should be as accessible as possible, so that everyone can properly discuss its findings and recommendations.
The four volume report is only officially available in two formats. One may order a printed copy from The Stationery Office at a cost of £250. Or, you can download a free PDF from the official-documents.gov.uk website. This is an incomplete offering. The report has so many parts, chapters, sub-chapters and paragraphs that navigating the text is extremely hard. You cannot embed a link to a particular page or line in a PDF document (unless you are the author of that document) so those debating the report are reduced to citing its findings only by page number, as we did in the pre-internet era. Additionally, the PDF format does not lend itself to copy-and-paste or meta-analysis.
The Leveson Report (As It Should Be) seeks to fix this issue. It presents the entire text of the Leveson Report in HMTL format. Those who wish to cite particular paragraphs in the report can link to a web page here, rather than to a cumbersome PDF document. The hope is that this will aid discussion of the report and its recommendations, and give more people a say in how our politics is conducted.