Following the Lachaux case at the Supreme Court earlier this week, I wrote an op-ed for Press Gazette on its implications for free speech and press standards. Key paragraph:
After a period of uncertainty, the Lachaux judgment returns the section one standard to that applied in Cooke. The publisher’s response to a complaint can really make a difference to the “serious harm” assessment.
I’ve been quoted in newspapers twice this week. Yesterday, the Libel Reform Campaign learnt that Sir Edward Garnier MP was seeking to remove essential provisions from the Defamation Bill. TheGuardian asked me to comment:
Robert Sharp, head of campaigns and communications for English PEN, said both subclauses were essential “to stop the inequality of arms that corporations use. They use the libel law for PR.” Sharp pointed out that Garnier does not have the full support of his party, with Tory peer Lord Mawhinney having given his support to the companies’ clause saying the fact they could sue anyone without any prima facie proof of financial damage was “a form of bullying”.
The quote from Lord Mawhinney was during a House of Lords debate on the Defamation Bill, which I attended. I was also quoted in the Sunday Telegraph last weekend, in a piece by Andrew Gilligan about the Royal Charter and Hacked Off. I am less pleased about that one, though – it is a story about process, not policy.
My Nan had a prayer blue-tacked to her fridge. It is by It is by Reinhold Neibuhr:
Dear Lord, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And the wisdom to know the difference.
We would do well to remember this in the debate over press regulation. I think a great deal of the motivation of politicians and campaigners to impose regulation on the press comes from a hatred of its hackery, rather than phone hacking. Shoddy reporting, blatant ideological propaganda, and quotes taken out of context in order to misrepresent and sensationalise. Continue reading “Press Regulation: Grant us serenity”
Now then: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has resigned from the PCC code committee. Last week he said that the PCC report into the allegations that the News of the World had been hacking people’s phones was “dangerous to the press” and that it was behaving “uselessly” as a self-regulator. That was last Monday, 9th November. But I wonder if Rusbridger’s mind was finally nudged in favour of resignation the following day, by the Human Rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC? Robertson was speaking at the launch of English PEN and Index on Censorship’sCampaign for Libel Reform, at the Free Word Centre. He had this to say on the subject of the media and the PCC:
The media … have for years committed a fraud on the public and on their readers by presenting this confidence trick of the Press Complaints Commission, as though it were a real court, as though it were significant. The Press Complaints Commission has been funded by the press, in order firstly to provide a poor person’s libel court (which has now gone by the board because now everyone who sues uses CFAs); it has been funded secondly to prevent the encroachment of the law of privacy – and its too late now, because we have a law of privacy: ill-designed, vaugely worded, European Gobbledegook for the most part, which is being implemented in a ham-fisted way by the judiciary. So, there’s no point in the PCC. If the editors of Fleet Street had any real integrity they would withdraw. As Ian Hislop said, as the editor of the only organ that refuses to accept PCC judgements, he wouldn’t want to live up to the ethics of the newspaper editors who are on the PCC’s ethics committee!