It is only three years ago since there was an attempt made to introduce a form of state regulation of the press. It failed, and should have been discarded into the pile of hastily proposed terrible government ideas. Instead, we have to fight the battle all over again.
The consultation on a plan to impose financial penalties on newspapers who refuse to sign up to a government approved regulator will end tomorrow, if you wish to give your opinion you will have to act quickly. A 300 year old tradition of press freedom should not be abolished because a movement led by embittered celebrities and politicians wasn’t adequately opposed.
How much easier would life be for our politicians if the ever troublesome British press was enfeebled by a regulator chock full of people with a clear agenda to tame them?
The implication of section 40 is that if libel action is brought against a newspaper it could be forced to pay the legal costs of the other side even when it won the case. Anyone who cannot see how the threat of lawsuits could potentially be used to intimidate journalists and silence newspapers is being incredibly short sighted and close minded. There is a clear and present danger.
It is common practice in corrupt and unfree countries to haul journalists and newspaper owners before the courts to intimidate them into silence, is that what we want for our own country? Politicians and the rich and powerful who had something to hide will use any power they have – as they do now with injunctions – to protect themselves. It is clearly conceivable that they could use this to threaten newspapers into silence. The threat of crippling legal costs will loom large; the press will be cowed.
There is only one way to escape this; to sign up to a government approved regulator funded by Max Mosley who has is pursuing a personal vendetta against the press because of the News of the World orgy exposé. How can Impress be a credible regulator when officials within the organisation have expressed publicly their disdain for certain newspapers?
No self respecting publication would sign up to Impress, but they face serious risk because section 40 has the power to bankrupt them. Yes, say goodbye to tittle tattle celebrity gossip, but don’t expect a tamed press to pursue investigations into the wrongdoing of politicians and corporations. Instead, expect a cowed national press and local newspapers to be shut down by rich and powerful chancers.
The government mustn’t give in to Hacked Off, Impress, and the parade of useful idiot celebrities embittered by their past scandals. If the press is compelled to submit, it will be a scandal and will shame this country, which should be beacon of liberty, in the eyes of the world.
When a tyrant rises to power, the first thing they do is take control of the press. Why? Because a free press is a central pillar of a free society. Destroy it and watch the fragile structure of liberty crumble.
You can do something about it. You have until 17:00 today to make your voice heard. We implore you to do so; say NO to section 40 and Leveson Part 2. Keep the press free.
Ben is the Conservatives for Liberty Director of Online Communications. Follow him on Twitter: @TheScepticIsle
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty