December 9 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Comment: Our free press – of which your Eastern Daily Press is part – is the envy of the world.
But it remains under threat as never before.
A proposed independent Royal Charter put forward by a broadly united newspaper industry has been thrown out by a committee of politicians... to our huge disappointment.
The plan – which we backed – offered a different outcome to regulation in the wake of the Leveson inquiry. It ensured that press freedom was preserved, but under a tough new regulatory regime.
Culture secretary Maria Miller’s pledge in the House of Commons to make “substantive” changes to a cross-party plan, which was agreed without the press over a late-night pizza meal in the Houses of Parliament, has left the door open for further conversation. Everybody has got to be happy with what will now go to the Privy Council on October 30.
Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman’s clinical approach – just pushing this through without delay – would see a new system put in place by diktat, rather than consensus.
The newspaper industry was let down by elements of the national media and, quite rightly, the law is still dealing with the wild excesses of a small part of our national newspaper industry.
The regional press – of which this paper is a key part – was exonerated in the Leveson inquiry.
This newspaper’s editor gave evidence to the inquiry and our voice must not be drowned out as negotiations continue in the coming weeks. What has terrified many people in the industry – and this newspaper – is the thought of politicians, whom we hold to account on a daily basis – holding us to account by force of law.
It would be intolerable for politicians to be able to control by statute any part of the media. The scandal of some MPs and expenses would never have come to light had it not been for the newspaper industry, led by some stunning investigative journalism.
What a ruinous day it would be if politicians, quoting or adapting a legally-backed Royal Charter, decided journalists couldn’t investigate matters in Parliament.
Our MPs are quick to support their regional press – which plays a vital role in local democracy – yet they support the cross-party political proposal.
When they are in their constituencies, many MPs beat a path to their local newspaper’s door. They want their stories published and they see their title as a quintessential part of the local democratic scene.
But at Westminster they enter a political bubble and their local area can be forgotten.
Is this why the regional press has been swept headlong into an issue not of our making?
The day the first regional newspaper closes as a result of the Royal Charter, they will be bemoaning the loss of local democracy. And once lost, this would be hard to regain.
This charter threatens the existence of many regional papers and, over the next few weeks, there is much to be worked out. We hope that the dialogue between press and politicians is open, and the voice of the regional press – untainted by scandals of phone hacking, hounding and bribes – is listened to. The freedom of your Eastern Daily Press – which provides news that is clear, truthful and unhindered by political interests – is at stake.