According to the Sun and the Mail on Sunday, the right thing to do now is to shelve the Royal Charter approved by all parties in Parliament and allow the press to regulate themselves just as they like.
The Mail on Sunday says the industry has come up with ‘a very radical and severe set of reforms’ and should be allowed to put it into action, given what it claims is a ‘suspicion that the wrongdoings of a minority of journalists have been used by politicians and celebrities as a pretext for shackling a free press’.
For Trevor Kavanagh in the Sun, the entire Leveson Inquiry was ‘an establishment stitch-up’ and ‘it would serve MPs right if the newspaper industry withdrew from the process, flatly rejected press regulation and challenged Parliament to do its worst’.
What these newspapers can’t see is that, even as they demand another round of self-regulation entirely on their own terms, they prove to us how little they deserve to be given that chance.
Just look at them, pretending in their weaselly way that a decade and more of abuse of members of the public doesn’t matter.
Here’s the Mail on Sunday:
‘While there is no doubt some journalists behaved despicably, it is increasingly clear that most did not, and that the hacking and other misdeeds which caused so much public outrage are rife in other professions.’
It’s as if Motorman, Murat, McCann, Jefferies, phone hacking and the corruption of public officials just never happened, or were minor matters. It’s as if national newspapers had never ‘wreaked havoc in the lives or ordinary people’ and had never conspired to cover that up. It is as if they never constructed a so-called self-regulator whose true purpose was to serve their own interests rather than the public’s.
As for Kavanagh, he does not deign to mention the outrages which made the Leveson Inquiry necessary but simply rants about the unfairness of it all. You might think a man who has a dozen and more colleagues awaiting trial would see this as a moment for discretion.
Their attitude calls to mind some remarks made by the Bishop of Norwich, who speaks on the media for the Church of England. He noted the ‘national moral outrage’ provoked by ‘the casual and callous disregard of the feelings and well-being of the targets of sensational press stories’, and he declared:
‘The sad thing is that there has been surprisingly little public repentance and a great deal of self-justification and lapses of memory. That alone should make us wary of the claims of editors that they can clean up their act without the independence of their regulator being guaranteed by statute or in some other way.’
Indeed. These papers are not sorry, have learned nothing and will not change voluntarily. What kind of fools would we be if, as a society, we allowed the leaderships of the Mail and the Murdoch papers another ten-year opportunity to treat us all like trash when they choose?
Distortion and intimidation were among the practices that got them into so much trouble, and they just carry on distorting and intimidating.
So the Mail on Sunday claims to ‘reveal’ that:
‘…a Scotland Yard whistleblower says he was blocked from giving vital evidence to the inquiry. This would have pointed the finger at leaks by police officers pursuing private agendas in the media – the central point of his investigation.’
In fact the evidence of Peter Tickner, the man in question, was addressed as long ago as March 2012 in this clear and simple ruling by Lord Justice Leveson, published at the time for all to read on the inquiry website. Yet this is used to suggest to readers that there are ‘growing doubts’ and ‘suspicions’ about the whole Leveson inquiry.
And Kavanagh asserts:
‘One hacker claimed 80 per cent of his clients were law firms, wealthy individuals and insurance firms. Only 20 per cent involved the media. This bombshell was concealed from the inquiry and buried in his lordship’s report.’
The ‘hacker’ in question is an unidentified private investigator who is not known to have admitted hacking anyone at all, and when he said that 80 per cent of his clients were ‘law firms, wealthy individuals and insurance companies’ he said nothing at all about them engaging in phone hacking. So the evidence of this one person is a very, very long way from proving, as Kavanagh implies, that only a fifth of all hacking was done by newspapers.
And even if that were true, what kind of twisted mind assumes that just because lawyers might have hacked, that makes it all right for journalists to access the voicemails of vulnerable people?
Kavanagh continues to smear. Just sample the hatred and aggression here, in a piece of invective constructed upon what he has allegedly learned from ‘close pals’ of Lord Justice Leveson and ‘a friend‘ of Sir David Bell.
Speaking of close pals, Kavanagh is a member of the ‘foundation group’ of PressBoF’s planned replacement for the Press Complaints Commission. That is to say, he is personally involved in the efforts of press proprietors and editors to set up their own self-regulator on their own terms. But that is a bombshell he fails to share with his readers.
The Murdoch and Mail titles, like the Telegraph titles, are determined to defy Parliament and regulate themselves in the way they are used to – in their own interests and not in the public’s. And the more they demand this, the more they prove they are not fit to do so.
Brian Cathcart is the Executive Director of Hacked Off