Should we have a completely free press?

(18 Posts)
Jac1978 Wed 20-Mar-13 14:59:01

Should the press be allowed to print what they like? If they were subject to the same rules as tv broadcasters would it stifle investigative journalism? Would big fines and big apologies for incorrect stories be enough to stop bad practices?

Nancy66 Wed 20-Mar-13 15:20:35

the press have never been able to print what they like - contrary to what some may believe and huge libel payouts have happened many time over the years.

Jac1978 Wed 20-Mar-13 15:25:06

But that doesn't stop them doing it!

Nancy66 Wed 20-Mar-13 15:27:35

newspapers don't routinely print false stories in the hope of getting away with it...

lalalonglegs Wed 20-Mar-13 16:05:43

The problem with getting a huge libel payout in the past has been that the individual suing the paper has to have the funds to take the matter to court which was a hundreds of thousands of pounds gamble - from what I understand, the new system will allow a regulatory panel to decide on a story's flaws and whether the person written about deserves damages and how much those should be. Whether that will make reporters more careful is anyone's guess - I'd think that prominent apologies might be more of a deterrent, it was always a culture at the newspapers at which I worked to avoid a correction or apology if at all possible even if we had printed a real howler.

Blu Wed 20-Mar-13 16:11:38

Yes. we should have a completely free press, with the only proviso being that they obey the laws of the country.

There are already laws in existence to protect against phone hacking etc.

The problem with the mass phone hacking, and the horrendous incidents surrounding the death of Mllie Dowler, for example, was the unholy collusion between the police, the politicians and the press. What they did was actually illegal.

The press should not be allowed to print untrue defamatory information about people. That doesn't mean the end of a 'free press'.

If I were the editor / proprieter of a newspaper I would not sign up to the current charter.

lalalonglegs Wed 20-Mar-13 16:19:18

Trouble is, if you don't sign up, you are going to get punitive fines - Richard Desmond has refused to be bound by the PCC in the past, I believe, so any moral stand will be regarded as an attempt to side-step the rules hence the fines.

I agree with you by the way, Blu: as Ian Hislop pointed out during Leveson, there are already plenty of laws to protect victims of press intrusion but the sad fact is that the public who guzzled these sorts of stories now want to punish the (mainly) tabloids that provided them.

Jac1978 Wed 20-Mar-13 19:54:51

If the press weren't allowed to support a political party and had to be neutral as tv broadcasters are - we wouldn't get all the corruption between newspaper owners and politicians

lalalonglegs Wed 20-Mar-13 22:21:53

But the whole point of the press (especially now that TV/internet can break stories as they happen) is their opinions on current affairs and that means taking a line, often a party one. It's how they differentiate from each other. I think that bad press can destroy a weak leader's reputation (see Major and Brown), but I'm not sure that the papers are the king-makers they once were or believed themselves to be.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 21-Mar-13 05:58:55

I think the same rules should apply to press, bloggers, news websites, Twitter etc... Defamation, libel, bribing officials, aggressive harrassing/spying on individuals etc illegal, with stiff penalties for breaking the law, but everything else goes. I don't have much faith in the press upholding a code of practice and I don't think it's fair to single out the press when there are so many other ways to receive information that won't be included. When it comes to political bias and smear campaigns, Twitter can bring down an individual far more effectively than a newspaper and - as was the case for Lord McAlpine - there is no code of practice demanding that it be accurate

boxershorts Thu 21-Mar-13 11:34:57

we had a free press. They took disgusting liberites

lalalonglegs Thu 21-Mar-13 11:43:16

To be fair, boxer, some of the press took disgusting liberties. I'm a former Fleet St journalist and I've never phone hacked, obtained information by deception, bribed anyone or, to my knowledge, invaded anyone's privacy and neither have the people I worked with. I can see why there is an appetite for tighter regulation but most of the press is/was self-regulating pretty well.

Nancy66 Thu 21-Mar-13 11:57:36

print edition of newspapers aren't going to exist in 25 years time anyway.

I suspect the Guardian isn't far off becoming an online paper only. The Indie cannot possibly survive much longer...

Once newspapers become online editions it will be very hard to police and monitor. The internet is pretty much ungovernable.

thezebrawearspurple Sun 24-Mar-13 15:38:51

They should be free to hold whatever opinions they like, they should be free to expose corruption and illegality, they should not be free to target private individuals who've committed no crime for harassment and invade their privacy, that's where I would draw the line.

kim147 Sun 24-Mar-13 15:42:14

Exactly Zebra.

Who gets to define public interest? What price does that come at for innocent individuals?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 25-Mar-13 06:54:24

"they should not be free to target private individuals who've committed no crime"

And who decides they've committed no crime? There are miscarriages of justice all the time. Sometimes wrong convictions but occasionally the other way. I'm thinking of the group that were eventually held responsible for the death of Stephen Lawrence, for example. They were private individuals on the end of some fairly robust journalistic 'targeting' over the years which subsequently proved to be valid.

kim147 Mon 25-Mar-13 07:12:07

People who are undergoing gender reassignment haven't committed a crime.

hackmum Mon 25-Mar-13 09:00:42

Agree with zebra and kim. I think the targeting of Lucy Meadows, who had committed no crime, went way beyond what might be considered reasonable. It wasn't just the nastiness of the Littlejohn article, it was the fact that photographers were hanging around daily outside her house, and that journalists were trying to extract information and photographs from parents. How is that in the public interest? They hounded her to death, and all in the name of the "freedom of the press".

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