Shami’s Surprising Defence of Freedom
Shami Chakrabarti has been so wrong about so much for so long, and is so given to easy posturing, that it is scarcely credible that she is opposed to state regulation of the press.
It may also be possible to achieve these incentives without resorting to legislation. But if legislative incentives are preferred, the Prime Minister is right to be concerned about any government-appointed body “supervising” the independent regulator. That would bring about the danger of political control by the backdoor. It is unnecessary and must be resisted.
I had to read it three times to be sure that, contrary to the impression she gave in her interviews on Thursday welcoming the publication of the Leveson report, she is actually opposed to its only important recommendation.
Her dissension is recorded in the report itself, but you have to be quite a careful reader to find it and to appreciate its significance.*
And she expanded on it in an interview with David Rose in the Mail on Sunday today, throwing in for bonus marks what she thinks of Ed Miliband’s response:
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.
The same goes for all the luvvies and their luvers busy turning the Hacked Off petition into the internet fashion of the moment. I fear that they do not know what they are talking about, framing the question as “tough regulation” versus “scummy press allowed to do what it likes (plus David Cameron sucking up to Murdoch)”.
That is not what this is about, as I sought to explain in my column in The Independent on Sunday today. Cameron is in the lucky position of making himself popular with News International, the Mail and the Telegraph by doing the right thing.
The Independent on Sunday’s leading article, not usually friendly to Cameron, tries to explain why. Even this may need further explanation, because the question is really not simple, and anyone who pretends that it is can be safely ignored.
Shami Chakrabarti’s objection is not to legislation as such. There are laws of defamation, confidence, national security and human rights that apply to the press and to all other forms of journalism or publication. The objection, as the IoS leader says, is to “a new law to give any arm of government a role” in “press regulation”.
That means no new law that gives someone appointed by government authority over any body that seeks to regulate the press. Lord Justice Leveson wants Ofcom, appointed by government, the power to “verify” a system of press self-regulation. Chakrabarti would accept a law that gave that power to the courts, but says (above) that is may be possible to achieve the same ends without new legislation.
I am not sure how: the problem would be what to do about newspaper publishers who refuse to be part of the new self-regulatory body. But that is where the debate ought to lie, instead of in the simplicities of an ignorant internet petition.
*Here it is, in volume IV: footnote 56 on page 1,775:david cameron, leveson, press freedom, shami chakrabarti
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