Sunday, December 02, 2012

Leveson's demand for legislation would breach European law

After the Leveson report,  Ed Miliband and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, were only too quick to agree with the entire report including the recommendation of press self-regulation, which included legal sanctions for newspapers that did not wish to participate.

The subtlety of the position of the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party, to support all of the recommendations, except enshrining industry self governance in legislation (which would have meant licensing newspapers), was lost in the tirade of victim worshipping, venom about Rupert Murdoch and utterly false hyperboles about the "power" of that one newspaper proprietor.

Hugh Grant for one continues to make an utter fool of himself with his ranting Marxist hysteria that media barons run the country, of course he says this on the state owned taxpayer funded BBC that owns and operates more TV and radio stations than any other broadcaster.

While those like myself who think that the state should not licence those who wish to print newspapers or magazine get smeared by the likes of him, and the unfortunate victims of illegal behaviour by some journalists, the Director of human rights organisation "Liberty", Shami Chakrabarti, has been reported in the Mail on Sunday as saying that that one dimension of Leveson would be contrary to UK law, which is the British implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Bear in mind Liberty is not libertarian, but rather a liberal leftwing "civil" liberties group, highly regarded by leftwing intellectuals and politicians, and the European Convention on Human Rights is warmly embraced by the Liberal Democrats (and excoriated by conservatives).

Some of her points have been:

- The so-called "Hacked Off" group of celebrities doesn't really know what it is talking about "There has been a great deal of ill-informed debate, with people bandying about terms such as “statutory underpinning” with little grasp of what this would mean".  Indeed, the sheer contradiction between saying that a system created by politicians, overseen by a body appointed by politicians is "truly" independent, eludes them, because they are actors, authors and singers.  Not lawyers, not policy wonks, not philosophers.

- A compulsory legal press regulatory framework "would mean the press was being coerced in being held to higher standards than anyone else, and this would be unlawful.’ On Miliband, she commented on the fact that when he made his promise to back the report on the day it was published, he could not possibly have read or weighed up the contents of its 2,000 pages.  ‘He should have been more careful about what he said,’ Ms Chakrabarti said.  ‘To declare his full support so early, when he cannot have read it, was hasty. He should have reflected on it. This is a policy that must not be rushed.’

Now it is right to want another source, given the Mail on Sunday tends to be a conservative newspaper and regularly expresses hatred of European laws generally, so the Liberty website explains further:

- "The Leveson Report recommends a robust independent self-regulation of the press of a kind that has not been provided or suggested by the industry up to now....It must set and promote ethical standards, handle complaints and crucially offer a swift and cheap alternative to court action for members of the public whose rights (e.g. privacy and reputation) have been violated. No statute is needed to create such a body and editors and proprietors should take the Leveson characteristics and seek to build one without delay"

- "Leveson does not recommend compulsory statutory regulation of the press and Liberty believes that he is right not to do so. However, he moots the very difficult question of what would happen if all or significant portions of the press failed to rise to the challenge of his Report and create and support a sufficiently robust and independent body. He reflects on (without recommending) the possibility that parliament and the public might feel the need to impose some level of compulsory statutory regulation on outlets that refused to play their part. It is this alternative that Liberty cannot support and which would in our view, breach Article 10 of the ECHR and Human Rights Act. As this last-ditch alternative is not even a recommendation of the Report, it is misleading to suggest that Liberty or its director is in any way dropping a "bombshell" on the Lord Justice's Report, not least as this position was clearly footnoted in it."

Behaviour that is illegal has been disgraceful, but when the law hasn't been followed or enforced then the answer is not to create another law.   Just because someone hates a particular newspaper proprietor does not mean it is right that the newspapers, which say things they don't like, should be subject to state control or regulation.  

Defending free speech means defending the right of those you despise, whose views you find reprehensible, to express themselves.  It means books, photos, songs, movies, newspapers and tweets you find offensive are not to be banned just because you find them offensive.

Unfortunately, all too much of the rhetoric around Leveson has been from those who say free speech is important, but...

There is no but...

1 comment:

Barry said...

Your'e correct: there is no "but"