Shami’s Surprising Defence of Freedom

John Rentoul

shami1 300x244 Shamis Surprising Defence of FreedomShami 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.

Yet the director of Liberty, who was one of Leveson’s “assessors”, wrote in The Independent yesterday:

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:

shami Shamis Surprising Defence of Freedom

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  • Charles Richards

    She’s not siding with Cameron, though. She and Cameron have the same opinion in that the both believe that the government has no place in press regulation.

    If you truly think that merely holding a single opinion that is the same as someone else’s is enough to make you a supporter of that person then you are clearly beyond help. Go and see a counsellor now.

  • Charles Richards

    Who said anything about the police telling journos what to do? All they have to do is arrest them when they break the law. Would be nice if they could get on with it and arrest Piers Morgan.

  • Lizzy Bee

    Sure, resort to personal insults because you have no substance.

  • Charles Richards

    Sure, avoid explaining how her siding with Cameron on ONE issue makes her a Tory.
    Siging with Cameron on the single issue of civil liberties that he isn’t busy kerbstomping does not mean one has to agree with him on the (many) ones that he is.

  • Lizzy Bee

    Explain how she is NOT siding with Cameron.

  • Charles Richards

    Did you not read? I said she IS onh the same side as Cameron on this one issue. My question was how does it make her a Tory, to be in agreement with him on only thing? How does the party that someone votes for relate to believing in more governmental control?
    Since when did believing in a liberal society become right-wing?

  • Lizzy Bee

    Dude, re read your own posts, you said she’s not siding with him, now that she’s not. The point is Cameron is seeking to protect his chums at News Int. and by backing his rejection of the main suggestion out of the inquiry Shami is sticking up for these knobs. If that’s not being a Tory I don’t know what is. I hope this is now crystal clear as I don’t have time to keep discussing with someone who doesn’t know what his own previous posts say.

  • Lizzy Bee

    ” Charles Richards Lizzy Bee • 19 hours ago

    She’s not siding with Cameron, though”

  • Charles Richards

    So what it boils down to is that you hate Cameron and Murdoch so much that you will happily accept an illiberal law just because it inconveniences them?
    She is only siding with Cmaeron in the sense that they both agree on the point that the government should not regulate the press. I’d imagine their reasons are different in that she is clearly a liberal, whereas Cameron wanta to protect his friend. She is right for the right reasons and Cameron is right for WRONG reasons.

    Supporting a facist law yet you call yourself left-wing??? Joke.

  • Lizzy Bee

    Your grip on political theory appears to be very loose. Get back to me when you have something to say besides slinging insults.

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