Saturday, 10 November 2012

Waiting for Leveson

"Don't buy a dog and bark yourself" is the old adage that surely applies for those who are seeking to prejudge both the content of Lord Justice Leveson's report, and the House of Commons approach to press regulation. All parties agreed to the commissioning of a detailed report into press regulation. I want to see the content of the report before I come to any conclusion. I have always believed that you should look at the evidence before coming to a decision. Otherwise you have trial and judgment by hunch or supposition. So for my part I will await the report, study it and then come to a view. 
A few other points are worth making:
- I was asked if I wanted to sign a letter to the Guardian this week and declined, for reasons that I expand upon above - namely a desire not to pre judge an independent judge.
- It is clear that the house of commons is divided prior to the publication of the report as to what should be done. 
- Some argue that self regulation has clearly not worked and that light touch statutory regulation by an independent body is the way ahead. 
- Others argue that statutory regulation of the press is an impingement on free speech, and a bad step towards limited control of the media by the state through parliament.
- Clearly the press want as little regulation as is possible.
For my part I would like to think I have seen the good and bad of all sides: I have worked for newspapers and magazines, albeit on a very amateur basis as a young man, but I know that the vast majority of journalists are law abiding, straight and decent people. I wrote well over 100 articles for a variety of papers and magazines in my youth. 
We owe the discovery of so many stories and scandals to the work of the press. No one should want that ability to shine a light on misdeeds and misdeanours to be dimmed in any way. But there have been multiple wrongdoings by a minority - predominantly at the tabloids, as they effectively acted above the law. Yet the law has caught up with some of them, and some will go to jail. Yet this process has taken time, some innocent careers and lives have been wrecked in the meantime, and I know that most people fear the wrath of the papers who can make or break you in a moment, regardless of what you have done.
But in all this I return to the fundamental. Let us see what Leveson says, then evaluate his reasoning and approach and then decide. I am presuming a free vote on this issue.