In the wake of the publication of the report by Lord Justice Leveson on British newspaper practices, Reporters Without Borders should point out that any reform of the system for regulating the media must be undertaken with the utmost care in order to guarantee freedom of information.
“Journalists and other citizens must respect the law insofar as it protects freedom of information,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general, Christophe Deloire. “Where ethics are concerned, self-regulation by the media is the preferred option. We believe that the illegal activities noted by Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry should not undermine that fundamental principle. The creation of a statutory regulatory body, if it goes ahead, should only be done under strict conditions of independence and pluralism."
“If the United Kingdom chooses such a system, the utmost care must be taken to prevent potential abuse that could lead to state control of the media. We shall judge the composition and powers of the new institution, and how its members are appointed, in the light of its ability to avoid this risk.
“An example of a system that does not work is the Hungarian model whose members all belong to the ruling party and which has broad prescriptive and punitive powers. With this in mind, the possibility raised in the Leveson report that the regulatory body might be able to levy fines of up to 1 million pounds (1.2 million euros) is a cause of great concern and must by ruled out at all costs.
“Now that the report is published, it is time for dialogue to begin. Journalists and free speech campaigners must be at the heart of the consultation process. No system of media regulation can be effective without the consent of those who work in the sector. Legislation must be drawn up only after patient and careful consideration. This is the price of guaranteeing freedom of information which also should guarantee The respect for all other freedoms for the good of all citizens.
“In view of the international reputation of Britain’s media, the government has a responsibility not only to the British people, but also to the rest of the world. Any movement towards state control would be seen as detrimental to a UK free press and would send out the wrong message to authoritarian governments. We shall be closely watching the conclusions of this debate.”
The commission of inquiry headed by Leveson issued its report on 29 November, after an eight-month investigation into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. The inquiry was launched following the revelation that journalists working for the British tabloid News of the World hacked into private telephones. The report proposes the creation of a new independent body, backed by legislation, to regulate the press. Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed his opposition to statutory control.
(Picture: Dan Kitwood / Pool / AFP)