UK: Defining Good & Free Speech and Media

Epigraph: When Hillel, a first century Jewish scholar, was challenged by a Gentile that the Torah be explained to him, while Hillel stood on one foot, Hillel replied, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn!”

The Muslim Times is bringing the recent debate in UK around Lord Justice Leveson’s judicial report, which teases out free speech and media, from different news sources.  This report and discussion around it, takes special significance, also in view of the recent debates among Muslims, about freedom of speech and its abuse, after an anti-Islam vitriolic movie, gathered public attention all over the world.  The Epigraph above may be a good extreme summary for Lord Justice Leveson’s 2000 page report.  I would hope that Lord Justice Leveson will like, our summary of his report, given his Jewish faith.

Source: BBC

A tougher form of self-regulation backed by legislation should be introduced to uphold press standards, the Leveson report has recommended.

Lord Justice Leveson said the press had “wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people” for many decades.

But the report’s recommendations have divided the coalition government.

David Cameron said he had “serious concerns” over statutory regulation but Nick Clegg said he supported some form of legal underpinning.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband urged the government to accept the report in its entirety.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Cameron said he broadly welcomed Lord Justice Leveson’s principles to change the current system.

But he said: “We should be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and the free press.

“The danger is that this would create a vehicle for politicians whether today or some time in the future to impose regulation and obligations on the press.”

Deputy Leader Nick Clegg said changing the law was the only way to ensure “the new regulator isn’t just independent for a few months or years, but is independent for good”.

Mr Miliband described the report as “measured, reasonable and proportionate” and said Labour “unequivocally” endorsed its conclusions.  Continue reading the main story in BBC

Source: CNN

London (CNN) — The British press should be regulated by an independent group supported by law and with the power to fine, a judge recommended Thursday in a long-awaited report sparked by a phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid.

Judge Brian Leveson said he was not recommending that Parliament set up a press regulator, but that the industry should create its own, which would be backed by legislation to make sure it meets certain standards of independence and effectiveness.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who asked the judge to prepare the report, told Parliament after its release that he agrees with Leveson’s recommendations for a new, strong, independent press regulator.

He said the onus is now on the press to implement the report’s recommendations, “and implement them radically.”

But Cameron said he is not convinced that legislation is needed to underpin the new body — and he has serious concerns about taking that approach.

At the same time, the prime minister said that the “status quo is not an option” and that the victims of press abuses have “suffered in a way that we can barely begin to imagine.”

News International, a subsidiary of the Murdoch-owned News Corp., backed Cameron’s call for regulation without legislation.

“We accept that a new system should be independent, have a standards code, a means of resolving disputes, the power to demand prominent apologies and the ability to levy heavy fines,” the company said in a statement.

Signaling a difference of views within the coalition government, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who leads the Liberal Democrats, said he believes new legislation is needed to ensure the regulator’s long-term independence.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, also said he favors full implementation of Leveson’s recommendations, including the new legislation.

Cross-party talks are expected later Thursday to discuss a way forward.

Read the report summary (PDF)

Read further in CNN

Source: The Guardian

David Cameron found himself accused of betrayal by the victims of phone hacking and isolated from his coalition partners when he took the gamble of opposing Lord Justice Leveson’s proposal to underpin a new independent press regulator with legislation.

Unveiling his 2,000-page report, the judge insisted the move was an essential to end “a culture of reckless and outrageous journalism”.

But after agonising for 24 hours since he received the report of the inquiry set up by him 16 months ago, Cameron said he had “serious concerns and misgivings” in principle to any statutory interference in the media. He warned: “It would mean for the first time we have crossed the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into law of the land.”

Cameron argued: “We should think very very carefully before crossing this line,” warning that parliament for centuries had seen its role as a bulwark of democracy. “We should be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and the free press.”

But the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, took the opposite view, siding with Leveson in saying that a state-backed body was needed to have oversight of self-regulation by the press. Leveson said that proposals from the Press Complaints Commission for a revamped regulator, backed by some but by no means all newspapers, would still amount to the “industry marking its own homework”.

Mark Lewis, the lawyer for the parents of Milly Dowler, accused Cameron of betrayal, reminding him he had promised his response would satisfy the victims of phone hacking and intrusion. Lewis said: “He called it the victim test; he called it the Dowler test. It looks like he failed his own test.”

The culture secretary, Maria Miller, will meet with victims on Friday, and on Tuesday she will hold a round table with editors of national newspapers and some proprietors to press them to draw up a timetable for a tougher self-regulatory model than the one they had proposed to Leveson.

In a subtle proposal designed to win over those fearful of direct state interference in a free press, Leveson proposed that the broadcasting regulator Ofcom should take responsibility for monitoring a new independent voluntary press regulator, organised by the media and capable of imposing fines of up to £1m as well as demanding up-front apologies.

Leveson said it was necessary for a body like Ofcom to monitor a revamped PCC to “reassure the public of its independence”. The purpose of legislation is “not to establish a body to regulate the press”, he insisted. But he warned that if newspapers were not prepared to join a revamped regulator, despite financial incentives to do so, it would be necessary to force Ofcom to act as a “backstop regulator”.  Read further in The Guardian

Source: The Muslim Times

I want to specifically quote a few paragraphs from the the Leveson report to understand and define public interest, a domain which could be applicable to the sentiments of the Muslims:

Protecting the public
40. A new regulatory body should continue to provide advice to the public in relation to issues concerning the press and the Code along with a service to warn the press, and other relevant parties such as broadcasters and press photographers, when an individual has made it clear that they do not welcome press intrusion.

41. A new regulatory body should make it clear that newspapers will be held strictly accountable, under their standards code, for any material that they publish, including photographs (however sourced).

The public interest
42. A regulatory body should provide guidance on the interpretation of the public interest that justifies what would otherwise constitute a breach of the Code. This must be framed in the context of the different provisions of the Code relating to the public interest, so as to make it easier to justify what might otherwise be considered as contrary to standards of propriety.
43. A new regulatory body should consider being explicit that where a public interest justification is to be relied upon, a record should be available of the factors weighing against and in favour of publication, along with a record of the reasons for the conclusion reached.
44. A new regulatory body should consider whether it might provide an advisory service to editors in relation to consideration of the public interest in taking particular actions.

The Muslim Times and Alislam-eGazette have had several publications on the issue of freedom of speech versus license to abuse, in recent weeks and some of those are linked here:

A Critique of President Obama’s UN Speech

The World Muslim Leader: ‘The Law about Freedom of Speech is not Heavenly Scripture or the Gospel Truth!’

Challenging Wilders: The Pen indeed and not the Axe!

October 2012 Alislam-eGazette: Freedom of Speech or License to Abuse?

Categories: Europe, Law and Religion, UK

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