Sunday, October 21, 2012

UK press regulation risks democracy

Source: Press TV

A Scottish cabinet secretary warns that the statutory regulation of the press as expected to be announced by a government inquiry into the ethics of the British media could damage democracy.

Scottish Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney said the government interference in the activities of the press could breach the values Britain claims to represent.

“My personal opinion is that I don’t favor statutory regulation of the press. I don’t think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it sits comfortably with a civilized, modern, Western democracy,” Swinney told the Scottish National Party Conference.

His comment comes ahead of a report by Lord Justice Leveson, who is leading a public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of British press following the News International phone hacking scandal.

Leveson, who was appointed as the chairman of the inquiry by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, said back in November 2011 that his investigations aim to answer whether the press that “provides an essential check on all aspects of public life” need a guardian and if so who should do the job.

The inquiry’s report is to emerge next month and is expected to propose tougher controls on the press.

Swinney has not been the first politician censuring the inquiry amid criticisms, including by former chairman of the Press Complaints Commission Sir Christopher Meyer, that the probe is no more than a “show trial” to justify further government control over the media.

Cameron’s Education Secretary Michael Gove also raised fears in February that the inquiry is having a “chilling” effect on free speech.

“The big picture is that there is a chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from the debate around Leveson,” Gove said.

The accusations of the inquiry being a mock trial especially gained force after revelations that Leveson attended two parties over the past year at the London home of Matthew Freud who is married to daughter of News International’s big boss Rupert Murdoch.

This comes as the British government had earlier used student protests and anti-spending cuts rallies in London and other cities as an excuse to call for tougher controls on social networking websites, sparking outrage among civil rights campaigners.

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