Saturday 1 December 2012

More press regulation is a bad idea

There can be no doubt that some members of the press have behaved very badly. Everyone agrees that phone hacking is against the law and anyone found guilty should be punished.

But do we now need new laws to ‘regulate’ the press - or as euphemistically described, to 'underpin' regulation? The hysterical voices now clamouring for more regulation may have good intentions, but are they right?

Clearly, some of the people urging the government to adopt the Leveson recommendations ‘in full’ are motivated by genuine sympathy for the victims of the phone-hacking scandal. However, others are just usual suspects - hoping to use the report as a convenient opportunity to put the boot into the Murdoch Empire.

Whatever the motivation, the simple fact is statutory regulation won’t work. Newspapers are already ‘yesterday’s news’ - most people now do their reading other ways. At the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen citizens now have instant access to news and views from around the world - yet the internet is barely covered by the Leveson report.

In the USA, freedom of the press is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Whatever measures are implemented in the UK, people will still be able to access news and information from other sources.

Whether they realise it or not, citizens need protection from politicians more than they need protection from the press.

The Leveson proposal must be rejected.