Call for end of press self-regulation

Published 30 November 2012
PA

The Bishop of Norwich has called for an end to self-regulation of the press following the publication of the Leveson Report.

The Right Reverend Graham James said a genuinely independent body should be established with a primary mandate to protect citizens from "unfair and damaging portrayal in the press" and to give them a "proper chance of redress".

"When members of the general public are unfairly traduced in a major press story, it is not a necessary consequence of press freedom but an abuse of it," he says.

Writing in the Church Times, Bishop James says that the Leveson Report must "surely bring the era of self-regulation to an end".

"We do need a genuinely independent body able to investigate the practices of the press without the trigger of a complaint bringing it into action," he says.

"It must be properly resourced by the industry itself but that doesn't mean it needs to build a large bureaucracy."

The Leveson Report recommended a new independent press self-regulation body, underpinned by legislation, to raise standards in the press.

A legally-binding and independent arbitration process would enable individuals to seek redress and possibly result in fines being imposed.

The board of the new regulatory body would not include any serving editors or MPs.

Announcing the recommendations yesterday, Lord Justice Leveson said the press had at times "caused real hardship" to individuals and "on occasion, wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained".

He insisted that the measures did not mean state control of the press but added that a self-regulatory body of some kind was needed because the industry was "still marking its own homework".

Bishop James, who sits as a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, also called for wider soul searching following the publication of the Leveson Report.

"The public release of photographs of Prince Harry in Las Vegas merited public disapproval while there were almost one hundred million Google searches in the UK for those same photographs within 24 hours," he said.

"Law and sin, regulation and grace, freedom and our capacity to abuse it: these are the theological themes of the report."

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