back to article New laws to shackle and fine the Press? We've got PLENTY already

Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed "serious concerns and misgivings" over bringing in laws to underpin any new body to regulate the press. Mr Cameron told MPs that legislation backing a regulatory body underpinned by statute would "cross the Rubicon" by writing elements of press regulation into the law for the "first …

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Anonymous Coward

Is the existing laws are so wonderful

Then why are we in the sh*t hole that we are currently in???

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Re: Is the existing laws are so wonderful

@AC

Because they weren't enforced properly. Next question...

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Unhappy

Re: Is the existing laws are so wonderful

For the same reason that many other areas of law and policy are a complete mess (tax being a fine example).

The recipe is as follows:

1) Progressively make the legal system increasingly complex so that few people properly understand it (noting as well that although case law might be a lovely bit of theory, it means that nobody outside the legal profession actually knows what the law is in practice).

2) Have limited and poorly resourced enforcement, and permit wealthy organisations to outspend those who have genuine cases against them.

3) Apply blatantly inadequate civil and criminal penalties even where the statute would permit far more severe penalties.

4) Wring your hands, say how awful the situation is, pass more laws without addressing items 2 or 3

5) GOTO Line 1

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Re: Is the existing laws are so wonderful

Because they weren't enforced properly. Next question...

And the reason they weren't enforced properly is that the enforcers - the police - are as bent as the press.

Next suggestion?

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Stop

Ok so put in laws that curb press freedom

We'd never had heard about the MPs expenses scandal, they would have kept a lid on that little lot.

Or Hugh Grant with the postitute.

Or all the other so called Celebrities with all their little sordid secrets that they want to keep away from their 'fans'.

It seems to me that those with an interest in bringing in press restrictions are those that have wanted to cover up their sordid little lives for their own pecunary purposes.

There should only be one law, that law is THE TRUTH. If the press gets it wrong then a large fine, but do we want to be like countries that curb press freedom, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, Russia, Burma, China, all African countries, Argentina, Mexico, Most other Arab Islamic countries?

Do you want to be like them for the sake of being able to cover up celebrity and politician sordid secrets?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ok so put in laws that curb press freedom

Additionally, celebs don't want to harm their standing with there fans in case they lose a few pay checks, no wonder they want laws on their terms. They were a bunch of sycophantic luvvie bleating sheep going on about how hard it is for them when stories about their mis-deeds come out in the press.

It was sickening to see them witter and twitter complaining how hard it was for them with all that the negative publicity has had on their careers and their nerves and mental states.

Two minutes after giving evidence they were blogging, tweeting and Facebooking and giving press conferences

about it and how hard it was on them to give evidence.

Put yourself in the public eye expect a little sh*t to fall on you. The press get more right than they get wrong, but that's life.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is the existing laws are so wonderful

What Ledswinger said. I wish I could have summed the whole situation up so succinctly.

The key fact behind all of this is that you cannot enforce decent behaviour by passing any number of laws, making any number of regulations, or even designing the fanciest and most elaborate constitution.

None of those will accomplish anything without the support of honest people who impartially implement the laws, regulations, and constitution. At present there are officials who can decide, quite arbitrarily and without any comeback, whether any given alleged illegal act will or will not be prosecuted. If they decide not to prosecute (or even investigate) there is nothing the voters can do about it. So every single law and regulation on the books is effectively dead UNLESS the government wishes to enforce it.

Thomas Jefferson famously said, "The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first". But the chains of the Constitution are imaginary unless they are enforced by people who have the real physical power to do so. That applies to our unwritten constitution just as much as the written US one.

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Re: Is the existing laws are so wonderful

If you read the various Police blogs, you'll see they are as frustrated with the sentences handed down, even if the CPS can be bothered to prosecute.

There's a lot of a detachment growing between what the Public expect to happen about various criminal actions and what actually happens.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ok so put in laws that curb press freedom

Why do you think you are somehow entitled to know celebrities sordid secrets?

Hugh Grant using a hooker is hardly watergate.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ok so put in laws that curb press freedom

"Hugh Grant using a hooker is hardly watergate."

Spot on.

As a number of wise folks have observed in recent months, "in the public interest" does not mean the same as "of interest to the public".

Ms Middleton's topless pictures (taken via very long lens from two(?) miles away while she was on private property???) are a more recent example of that difference. In that case, the UK press actually managed to restrain themselves from publishing the pictures, for reasons that should be perfectly obvious. The Irish press weren't all so discreet, but at least the editor of the Irish Daily Star, Michael O'Kane, who did publish, has resigned in the last few days.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is the existing laws are so wonderful

That must be why so many court cases rely on legal precedents. Proving something is legal or illegal is so hard and time consuming that once a legal precedent has been set all similar cases can use it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ok so put in laws that curb press freedom

Hugh Grant was arrested by the Police. So it was bloody obvious that news would get out about it.

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Thumb Down

Re: Ok so put in laws that curb press freedom

You have a point on the expenses scandal but who gives a toss where Hugh Grant stuck has tadger?

When it comes to invoking freedom of the press to protect news reporting, celebrity gossip is at the rank bottom of a very long list of priorities, if it even features at all.

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Re: Is the existing laws are so wonderful

I hope you read the magistrate blogs as well, for a balanced view?

If not, I recommend this:

http://magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is the existing laws are so wonderful

At work we have a change control process. It's pretty detailed and thorough. But those who raise the changes, and those who approve them, know the system well enough to game it sufficiently that most of what the want gets through. Service Management haven't the time to scrutinise effectively, and when fuck ups do happen, those in charge of those who fucked up are too close to them, or too worried about the reflection on their own lack of management, to penalise anyone.

All of which rather reminds me of this discussion of laws and their enforcement...

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FAIL

Re: Ok so put in laws that curb press freedom

Bollocks! Just because something is TRUE does that mean other people have a right to know all about it?

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Wow

So the laws of the land apply to journalists too? (Although in some cases a public interest defence may be available.)

Who knew? (Not the Metropolitan Police, apparently.)

Next you'll be telling us that working as a journalist doesn't entitle you to park all day on double yellows.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wow

Next you'll be telling us that working as a journalist doesn't entitle you to park all day on double yellows.

It may come as a surprise to you, but even working as someone merrily handing out parking fines you are not exempt either. I would *LOVE* to have a way of enforcing that, because you'd end up nailing them practically every time they stop to write a ticket..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wow

"Next you'll be telling us that working as a journalist doesn't entitle you to park all day on double yellows".

No, only the police can do that.

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The existence of a law and the willingness to enforce it are two different things. Ample evidence for a complete lack of the latter from the establishment can be found in the case of the NoW phone hacking scandal, and the gargantuan effort which had to be made by third parties to get us to this point.

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red herring

Yes the press is already governed by laws - those laws that apply to everybody. What Cameron is arguing against is laws specifically to regulate the press.

What we have here is a first. A PM who hasn't responded to a situation where the existing laws are not being enforced with a "We need more laws." I find myself in agreement with Mr Cameron - and that too is a first.

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Re: red herring

I would concur! The appropriate laws seem to exist but when those who are supposed to enforce them appear to be corrupt, in the pay of certain individuals and do not take up cases and/or prosecute, then what good are they? Back to the old saying: "Who watches the watchers?".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: red herring

Concur - but I would expect from Mr Cameron to inspect where enforcement came off the rails. In this context the story has only just began: the people arrested in conjunction with this affair should now be processed according to those laws, and how that goes pretty much determines success of fail of the whole enquiry IMHO.

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Devil

Re: red herring

"but I would expect from Mr Cameron to inspect where enforcement came off the rails"

That was one of the jobs of the Levinson enquiry. It failed miserably at that.

This should have been something to be debated in the commons, not the proposed mechanism.

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Re: red herring

that's true...

however speaking as someone who walked away from the entire british print media two decades ago, i'd just like to see them cut, and cut til they bleed.

all this talk about the higher idealism of 'freedom of the press' is all smokescreen. how free is the editor of the sun to write on 'his' front page just exactly what it is that the entire population of this country really thinks about murdoch?

so much for freedom of the press (end your internal dialogue, you are wrong, get over it)

broadcast media is subject to specific legislation, yet contrast the manner in which the BBC has covered it's own internal strife (esp the fact that panorama effectively blew the whistle on newsnight) with the utter dis-interest shown by the chip wrapper brigade to the phone hack scandal for months.

They are a disgrace and an abomination and they be consigned to the dustbin of history

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Right response, wrong reasons

On one hand, he's got the right answer - more regulation is moot when the old regulations were ignored.

But DC's position is more one of not wanting to annoy on the people / organisations who put him in office because he's going to need them to prop him up again soon enough.

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Given that any new laws

will principally be used to protect those who go to drinks parties with or hand over brown envelopes to the regulator I'm amazed politicians aren't all over this.

Hello regulation, bye bye expenses scandals.

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And tax presumably

This article seems to say "Cameron cannot say he doesn't want to regulate the press, as there are laws that they have to obey". Presumably they pay (some) tax as well, don't stab people in the face, etc. as well.

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Too Easy To Escape The Current System

At the moment, the Daily Express is not subject to the Press Complaints Commission. They choose not to pay the fee to sign up. In areas where I have some knowledge, they produce some pretty shoddy journalism.

Neither does Private Eye subscribe to the PCC, partly because they report the failings of the major newspapers, and the PCC is dominated by the editors of these newspapers.

I believe this means that a replacement system needs to apply to all the press, and it should not be controlled by the press. And that will never happen....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Too Easy To Escape The Current System

No new laws should be passed that would in any degree hamper Private Eye in doing what it does. It is a far more important part of the British Constitution than the rest of the media combined, the House of Lords... or, now I come to think about it, the House of Commons.

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Anonymous Coward

Current laws fail in part because

The current laws fail in part because certain senior members of the Metroploditan Police (and quite possibly others) were and quite possibly still are in the pockets of the press, and think they are above the law (and there is evidence to suggest they're right).

There are already plenty of laws against the kind of thing that went on at News International (and very likely at the Mirror too, despite Piers Morgan's protestations) and elsewhere.

Leveson talks a lot of sense, but both Plod and the ex-Fleet Street Press need a good sorting out.

Hillsborough, anyone?

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Re: Current laws fail in part because

I may be repeating myself here, but keep in mind that (a) the enquiry is only the first step of the process, (b) not everything has been released as Lord Leveson has to wait for the criminal charges to be processed before he can release the next part. The story is long from over..

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Re: Current laws fail in part because

"The story is long from over.."

THIS.

The 24 hour news cycle is partially to blame for reader antipathy towards long term analysis of what's in the press at any given time. The gawkers who read the tabloids are happy to be spoon fed another set of opinions within hours. The world's most successful troll site, Mail Online, is the worst offender despite their denials and Dacre's absurd claims.

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Coat

Who casts the first stone?

The British public have the press that they deserve, or at least the press that they willingly pay for.

Who reads the celebrity gossip and other made-up stories? The paying public.

Want to sell more papers? Fill them will celebrity gossip and salacious stories.

Anyway, it's true that there are already plenty of laws to deal with press misbehaviour, but they are not enforced. Who's supposed to enforce them? The police who leak details of arrests to the press and get tidy little retainers in exchange.

I've got my coat and left the country already.

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Anonymous Coward

What we need is obviously MORE REGULATION

Free society

Free enterprise

Free press

Yeah, right.

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Mushroom

Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

What happened to Innocent until Proven Guilty? - that's how our legal system is meant to work. A "defendant" has the right to trial by their peers to determine guilt or innocence.

Trial by Press is Guilty until Proven Innocent. No trial. No peer review. No defence. GUILTY.

THERE HAVE BEEN TOO MANY MISTAKES - the press needs to learn to properly check facts, the corroborate evidence, and to follow the law. Too many journalists are currently on a par with drug dealers - punting their wares to anyone who will buy it and not giving a care about the consequences even though they know it is shit they are peddling.

Claims that laws "controlling" the press would prevent us finding out "dirty little secrets" such as the expenses scandal - BULLSHIT - nothing will stop proper investigative journalism which uncovers corruption and deception. The EVIDENCE will be found, presented through the COURTS and LAW, and then the guilty will be exposed. As for citing the DPA - that really is clutching at straws to defend against some proper regulation.

I hope some of these so-called "journalists" are suggested as paedophiles by their colleagues - then we'll see how quickly they change their tune.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

" nothing will stop proper investigative journalism which uncovers corruption and deception."

Do you actually believe that? How much investigative journalism uncovering corruption is there in Russia? In Venezuela? In Saudi Arabia?

There will always be a brave (or foolhardy) few who push back against press control, but in many of those countries, they are indeed few. Press control works - not perfectly, as evidenced by microblogs in China, but well enough, as evidenced in China.

Innocent until proven guilty applies to the government, not to private individuals or corporations - just like (in the US anyway) freedom of speech. Individuals or the press are not required to hold a whole trial for every assertion or bit of reportage; it would be an unbearable burden.

The press - particularly the British press, it seems - can undeniably be absolutely wretched. But regulating them just won't work - even if you make it nearly impossible for them to mention anything for which there isn't absolute proof, they can still make generalizations. Hell, that's where a lot of the problems are - to wit, tabloid rabble-rousing about pedophiles. Irresponsible press could easily use cases vetted by the courts along with a dash of invective to achieve their desired ends.

Regulating that as well would essentially regulate editorial opinion - and when there are huge penalties for violating vague, undefined 'Don't be bad' rules, which are chosen, prosecuted, and punished by the government, do you really think that the government is going to bear the brunt of risky attacks? No, of course not. The people running newspapers have money to make, and risking it on criticizing the government when it would be just as easy and much less risky to whip up mob fury vs. people everybody is scared to defend (eg, pedophiles, software pirates...)

Essentially, your suggestion would move the motivation of the press from uncovering difficult stories about political corruption, to attacking the weakest, poorest people in broad ways which are both difficult to attack as falsehoods and impossible to defend oneself against.

And all that is even ignoring the precedent it sets - of government controlling public speech to protect The People. When does that control extent to private speech, which is arguably just as destructive? When does it extend to books and movies as well as print press?

Bad idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

Two points. First the slippery slope. You can use this to argue against any retriction on anything. In practice it doesn't often become a problem because people are far more alert to this than is widely believed. Second govt controlled public speech is arguably better than privately contolled public speech, which is what we have now. Govts are subject to electoral pressure. Media barons are not. On balance, I'd rather Cameron be responsible for deciding what is acceptable, not Murdoch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

"Second govt controlled public speech is arguably better than privately contolled public speech, which is what we have now. Govts are subject to electoral pressure. Media barons are not."

Media barons are subject to the pressure of customers and shareholders - and while such pressure is often inadequate (or counterproductive) in ensuring fair play, it provides a check on their power.

Additionally, if speech is government-controlled, there IS no electoral pressure, because the government controls what the people who are doing the electing know. Venezuela, for instance, had free elections - there wasn't much in the way of voter fraud, for instance. But Chavez controls the press with an iron fist, and his opponents were pretty much locked out of the press while he was given huge amounts of free time on TV and in print; news organizations which dared oppose him were suddenly found to have violated various laws which had 'til that point been rarely-used, and lost their licenses, were raided, or found their editors behind bars.

"On balance, I'd rather Cameron be responsible for deciding what is acceptable, not Murdoch."

The difference is that Cameron (or any given leader of any given country) has universal control over everybody in the country. He could silence speech for all, instantly, and anyone who opposed that silencing could himself be silenced.

Murdoch is indeed powerful, and probably has far too much individual influence, but he can't simultaneously control all the newspapers, all the TV stations, and the entire internet. He owns a lot of stuff, but he doesn't own enough stuff to do that.

There's one other important point: The worst thing that Rupert Murdoch can do to you is to prevent your views being aired on his media, or possibly to ruin your career in the business (though I'm not sure if that would work).

Mr. Cameron can put you in jail, or, if his grip on the press were tight enough, and anyone with that sort of power over the press could have your family put in jail or have you straight-up disappeared. Murdoch may be powerful, but he doesn't have an army and he doesn't have an entire country full of police who (broadly) will do what he wants.

This precise situation is happening in Russia; news organizations opposing Putin find the screws put to them, and reporters who uncover government support of crimes or corruption find themselves beaten to a pulp - or killed. Repeatedly. And the elections - well, they're not doing much to dissuade Mr. Putin, are they?

I can tell you for sure that if I were Russian, I'd prefer to see the Oligarchs using their money to promote their own speech for profit, rather than seeing Putin murder individuals who say the wrong things. The Oligarchs, at least, have other Oligarchs to worry about.

Russia went from having entered a relatively fair and free period to being a near-autocracy in just a few years. This is a slippery slope which has repeated itself time and again, not an argument that requiring light bulbs to switch away from incandescent bulbs will inexorably lead to lamps being banned.

On balance, I'd rather Murdoch be responsible for his little fief, and Murdoch's competitors be responsible for their little fiefs, and my being able to say what the hell I want as long as I can yell loudly enough for someone else to hear me - and these days, that's getting easier and easier, even as the power of the traditional press wanes.

All of those media barons will eventually die - Murdoch, presumably, sooner rather than later. CEOs of media conglomerates last only so long. Government, however, will always exist, and will always be the final and ultimate arbiter of society's freedom - not just in terms of press but in terms of thought, movement, and liberty. Handing control of public expression to a singly entity with that much power is sheer folly.

It's easy to whip up a righteous fury about the excessive power wielded by the press, but trust me - it is nothing at all compared to the power of the government.

Murdoch may be an influential man, but he doesn't have the Bomb.

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Meh

Re: Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

"Second govt controlled public speech is arguably better than privately contolled public speech, which is what we have now. Govts are subject to electoral pressure. Media barons are not."

GO LIVE IN CHINA, ARGENTINA, SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN, SYRIA, EGYPT, RUSSIA, VENEZUELA , MOST IF NOT ALL AFRICAN COUNTRIES.....

then come back and tell me that Governments are subject to electoral pressure.

Control of the press give control of the population and that is what Governments strive to attain.

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

> THERE HAVE BEEN TOO MANY MISTAKES

There have been very few mistakes. But there have been many instances where a paper has published some salacious bullshit because it creates sales, but there is little or no downside to trashing the life of an innocent party.

IMO, there is really only one rule that needs to be made and enforced: in the event that a paper publishes an untruth about someone, they must publish a retraction on the same page of the paper, with the same fonts and sizes and the same amount of space allocated . So one days' "Paedo TERROR!" screamer becomes the next day's "This paper talks SHIT!"[1].

Vic.

[1] Yes, I know they're not allowed to say that. But you get my drift...

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Joke

Re: Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

:-)

GOTCHA... to coin a phrase

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FAIL

But Chavez controls the press with an iron fist

so no headlines along the lines of

'it's the sun wot dun it' then

how awful

DUH!

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Facepalm

Re: Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

lol...

have you followed this story at all over the last year or so?

it would appear not.

you are not sure whether or not murdoch can ruin someones career? really??

(FFS even R Brooks can see that for bollocks - whahahahahahaha)

the vanishingly small minority of the British public that read a red top, are by and large not politically (with a small p) engaged in the slightest - they just want to see the tits on page 3, whats on telly, the racing form, stock prices, or how immigrants have effectively killed the Britain we know and love from the 1930's.

I believe Judges put people in jail, and there is some sort of mechanism that keeps the govt from fucking with the judiciary (i could be wrong, but im pretty sure im not)

cameron cant disappear people (it's not like he's blair or something) - spend a few minutes with the bloke who's only crime's were

a) to rent a property to a young woman who was subsequently murdered.

b) to be a bit... creepy

he's had to disappear himself FFS - all the free presses doing.

"he doesn't have an entire country full of police who (broadly) will do what he wants."

Orly? - i refer you to clause 1 of this rant - have you been following this story at all? giving evidence to parliament beckah brooks didn't even realise that giving the police bungs was illegal. and needed the legal nigel sat behind her to walk her back from a clear admission of bribing a public official.

oligarchs V monomaniacal presidents??

so you are saying the president might be a crook, so lets hand the show over to a bunch of people who we KNOW are crooks.???

you might be happy to have big business run your country (what could possibly go wrong there!)

but your stance kinda poses the question just what is the fucking point in even pointing in the general direction of a democratic system.

still, it's good to see fox news posting on the reg.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Guilty until PROVEN innocent???

@David W. And you werew sounding so reasonable until that final, very silly, non sequitur. If you (and others) honestly think a PM has absolute control over everyone and that press regulation will somehow usher in an orwelliian dark age then you clearly don't understand the fundamental difference between western societies and ones like, say, Russia. I will close by pointing out that it wasn't the lack of a free press that kept the people in the eastern block in line, it was fear of their neighbors being informers. Likewise, having freedom of speech written into our constitution did not prevent McCarthy from conducting his witchhunts. They were fed by fear stoked by an unregulated sensationalist press.

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Anonymous Coward

My opinion is probably a bit on the naive side (not being much of one for studying law) but I think that any form of statutory regulation implemented to control press behaviour is negative and not the path that a democratic nation should be taking.

I'd hate to think just how awful life must become for those wrongly accused of, or implicated as complicit in, criminal activity when it is spread for all to see across diverse media. But in determining a way forward I think we have to look beyond the personal and at the larger picture.

Surely, where criminal or otherwise prohibited acts are perpetrated by the media we, by definition, already have laws in place which can be used to deal with the perpetrators.

If anything, one thing recent events have proven is that 'the system' once again manages to demonstrate that it is willing to tolerate a degree of corruption within the media, the police and larger state establishments. This, in my mind, is as wholly unjustifiable as it is abhorrent.

What we need to achieve is an acknowledgement that there is a mindset, and one that may reach the highest level of establishment, that reflects a seeming antipathy towards the punitive prosecution of individuals and organisations given certain circumstance.

Personally I am all for locking up the media scumbags involved in some recent cases that have come to light. Let them feel the full force of the law. If the punitive measures within the existing framework are deemed inadequate then let's extend the scope of punishment. But let's do that within the existing framework.

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It would be lovely to do this in the existing framework

but that patently hasn't worked.

The trouble with the free press is its bought by the people who can afford it and who think free means they are free to do what they want.

From what I've read of Levison so far it looks a lot better than what we have - but as usual the press and the tories are being a bit disingenuous and precious about the proposals.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It would be lovely to do this in the existing framework

As journalist Hannen Swaffer put it (in 1928):

"Freedom of the press in Britain means freedom to print such of the proprietor's prejudices as the advertisers don't object to".

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Re: It would be lovely to do this in the existing framework

In which case, Tom, the thing to do is to ensure that there are plenty of different proprietors with differing views, not appoint some supervising body run by apparatchiks to dictate to everyone what they can say. If you don't like the views of the Mail, you are free to read the Guardian (or vice versa).

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