CAMPAIGNERS for press freedom criticised the government today for ditching its second half of the Leveson Inquiry.
Free Press editor Tim Gopsill said that the decision had been made by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to protect newspaper barons responsible for the phone-hacking scandal, the vilification of minority groups and decline of the local press due to job cuts.
Mr Hancock claimed that Leveson II had been scrapped to protect media freedom on the grounds that further investigation and the implementation of section 40 of the 2013 Crime and Courts Act would damage the press and quicken the demise of the industry.
Leveson II was due to look into unlawful conduct within media organisations as well as relations between police and the press.
Mr Hancock also announced that the government would not put into effect a widely criticised requirement for media organisations to sign up with a state-backed regulator or risk having to pay the legal costs of both sides of a libel case, even if they won.
Ministers will seek to repeal the measure “at the earliest opportunity”, he told MPs.
He said reopening the “costly and time-consuming” inquiry was not “the right way forward.”
Section 40 poses “no threat at all to responsible journalists who are prepared to treat their readers fairly,” Mr Gopsill stressed.
The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom attacked the government’s decision, saying it was “based on lies” and only protects press owners.
It was also revealed today that Sir Brian Leveson had urged the government to start the second part of the inquiry — though he could not preside over it himself because of his workload — because the public had been promised a full probe.
Hacked Off campaign group director Dr Evan Harris said: “This is probably the first time that a government has overruled the views of the judicial chair of a statutory inquiry by cancelling an inquiry against his will.”
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tom Watson described the decision as “a bitter blow to the victims of press intrusion.”
He added: “The Tories have betrayed all those who have been and will be victims of press intrusion and instead capitulated to pressure from their powerful allies in the media.”
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