I am sitting on the plane writing this as I return to Australia following a visit to the UK.

Next week, Lord Justice Leveson is due to publish his findings and recommendations following an extensive review into the British media.

As I boarded my flight home, I picked up a copy of the UK Mail on Sunday. The entire front page had a huge screaming headline “Cameron set to defy Leveson over new press laws”. Three or four full pages of the paper were devoted to arguing issues of “Freedom of the Press” and there was even a full page ad “say NO to state regulation of the press”.

Another huge headline taking up a third of a page in big bold white letters on a black background states “For 300 years the British people have fought – and died – to keep a free press. This week, our Prime Minister must not betray them“.

Clearly the media do not want legislative reform and are in a frenzy of reporting against it and doing everything they can to manipulate and control the outcome of the latest review.

In a recent speech The Honourable Ian Callinan AC QC, a former judge of the High Court of Australia stated: “the media regard themselves as being above the law“.

Everyone is in agreement (both in Australia and the UK) that the various systems of media self-regulation are not working hence all these inquiries. The media are trying to use the “freedom of the press” ideal to emotively argue against responsibility and accountability.

But what do people mean when they call for “freedom of the press”?

Without doubt freedom of the press for the purpose of truth and for the benefit of humanity is something the majority would vote for.

Freedom of the press for the benefit of the press is a different story.  It has been repeatedly shown to be a deeply corrupted story that includes commercial gain and abuse of power without any regard for humanity or the harm that is done to innocent people.

Chris Bryant a UK Labour MP recently wrote an article supporting legislative reform and commented: “we have to ensure that no one person ever again holds so much of the media market that they can think of themselves as above the law.”

Professor Eli Noam of Columbia University analysed the concentration of media ownership in the developed world. With a share of 86 per cent, Australia ranks highest by a big margin when considering the share of the top two companies. The share of the top two companies exceeds 60 per cent in only six of the 26 countries.

Hugh Grant in his witness statement to the Leveson enquiry asks “Why have good journalists agreed for so long to protect the racketeers in their midst? Why have they gone along with the omertà? Why did the exposure of the phone hacking scandal come down to the New York Times, and to the bravery of one UK newspaper and its editor? I would argue that the main reason is the same as the reason for everyone else’s silence on this subject for so long. Fear“.

A free and accountable press would benefit both the public and the good journalists.

At present the media themselves are the biggest threat to true “Freedom of the Press” and therefore practical and workable legislative reform could very well provide the press with more freedom and not less.

Update: One of our roving writers penned the above article last week. Subsequent to that Lord Leveson has delivered his report and David Cameron the UK Prime Minister has indeed backed away from implementing the changes as recommended in this substantial inquiry.

Further commentary published via the Hacked Off website can be found here:

Cameron’s choice: More of the same

J.K. Rowling’s statement on David Cameron’s response to Leveson


Mail full page article about Leveson and Cameron