Letter: ‘Intent on killing the press’

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While the Prime Minister supports robust investigative journalism, many in the House of Lords seem to have reservations about it.

Just over 200 of them recently voted to make it harder for journalists to investigate possible wrongdoing.

Some Lords may have been stung by past media reports and paraphrasing Mandy Rice Davis, they would do that, wouldn’t they?

The media has always had to strike a balance between risking the payment of damages in event of wrongful reporting, while doing their best to expose gross misuse of taxpayers’ money.

But after the Leveson inquiry it was proposed that newspapers should carry much of the cost of legal actions, whether they were in the right or not, if they had not signed up to a state-sponsored regulator which is inequitable and loads the dice against the journalist.

Quite rightly, although print media have submitted themselves to robust regulation from the Independent Press Standards Organisation, they refuse to join a regulator recognised under Royal Charter which could be the thin end of the wedge in the demise of a free press.

It would also impose financially destructive arbitration requirements on local papers - praised by Levenson - with opt-outs regarded as too little and too late.

If the Lords amendments were to be implemented then we would likely see an end to investigative journalism as we have known it. Indeed, it would be an arrow to the heart of our democracy, giving comfort to anyone seeking to milk the system.

The first Leveson inquiry cost £5.4m, although the bill to the newspaper industry was much more than that. Now those 200 Lords seem to want a further inquiry into events of over 15 years ago, extending the financial burden even further, when many newspapers are already in difficulty. There is no case for that.

While many in Parliament profess to support a Free Press, it seems that Lords may be intent on killing it. So when the Lords amendment comes to the Commons, we must hope that our MPs will throw it out.

No doubt Jeremy Quin and Nick Herbert will be ready to do just that. I know them both well and I doubt very much if they would ever have anything to hide. Perhaps they will comment on the issue in their next WSCT article, to confirm that they will standing up for us and for a Free Press.

Roger Arthur

Melrose Place, Storrington