Cameron ticked off by the EU for not backing Leveson
David Cameron has been given a ticking off by the EU but not over any of the issues he is expected to cover in his big speech tomorrow morning. A high level EU committee has opened up an entirely new source of conflict by rebuking him for his reluctance to appoint a press regulator with statutory powers to penalise journalists, as recommended by Lord Leveson.
The High Level Group on Media Freedom and Plurality, set up in 2011 by the Vice President of the EU, and headed by a former president of Latvia, has been considering whether the EU should be imposing rules about journalistic freedom and responsibility across the continent.
Their report published yesterday contains some admirable statements about the importance of free media and about protecting journalist from intimidation by the state.
They think plurality is so important that they imply that EU governments should be subsidising investigative journalism or loss-making newspapers, an idea that is not going to be well received in the UK.
They also loved the Leveson report which they say “has offered overwhelming evidence as to the multiple ways in which ’self-regulation’ has not just been interpreted as ‘no regulation’, but has led to gross abuses of journalistic privileges, the breaking of elementary ethical standards, and even activities subject to the criminal code.
“That judge Leveson’s recommendations should have been rejected out of hand by some politicians in high office, is not very reassuring. If nothing else, this resistance by itself underscores the urgent need for supervisory bodies that can and do act, instead of being supervisory in name only,” they add.
The report calls for every EU state should have a media council with “real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.”
They do not say what “removal of journalistic status” means but it seems to imply that they support the much ridiculed idea put forward by Ivan Lewis, when he was Labour’s culture spokesman, that there should be some means by which journalists can be “struck off”, which was interpreted as a call for journalists to be registered, in the same way as doctors or lawyers are.
OK, so a regulator appointed under the terms of an EU directive tells a newspaper editor that one of the paper’s writers has had his/her “journalist status” rescinded … no, not a good idea.
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