Society of Editors boss Bob Satchwell has hit out at a draft Bill published by the Labour Party in a bid to establish a new system of press regulation.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who initially said he would accept Lord Justice Leveson’s report on press standards “in its entirety” has now rejected the judge’s proposal for broadcast regulator Ofcom to have a role in overseeing newspapers.
But the climbdown does not go far enough for SoE executive director Bob who said it would still mean statutory intervention in the press.
His comments comes as MPs launch a short inquiry on the Leveson proposals, with Press Complaints Commission chairman Lord Hunt due to give evidence this morning.
Labour’s draft Press Freedom and Trust Bill, unveiled by deputy leader Harriet Harman yesterday, would see the Lord Chief Justice in charge of overseeing a new self-regulatory body for the newspaper and magazine industry.
The government is also producing its own draft Bill, which senior Tories said would show a law was unworkable.
Responding to Labour’s proposals, Bob said: “The industry is already taking urgent steps to create a new regulatory system as recommended by Leveson and it will study Labour’s proposals carefully.
“It notes that Labour has reflected and stepped back from the Leveson proposal for oversight by Ofcom but any new system must be free of statutory intervention both now and for the future.
“Through Lord Hunt the industry has made huge steps to implement his recommendations without interfering with the valuable role the press plays in society.”
“Labour proposes a “guarantee” for media freedom but there cannot be a part free media and there lies the difficulty of recognising in law the system and which part of the media it affects.”
Added Bob: “It’s not just a matter of practicalities in finding an effective and responsible system of regulation, but a vital principle that must not forgotten. The press represents and acts on behalf of the public, defending its right to know.
“The press fundamentally exists in order to scrutinise those in positions of power. It could not do that if those it was scrutinising were given any authority or the threat to exercise power over it.”
Ms Harman said: “This Bill puts into effect the central recommendation of Lord Justice Leveson’s report – legal backing for the new system of independent self-regulation by the press.
“This Bill is an offer to MPs on all sides of the House who want to implement Leveson’s proposals. It shows that a Bill can be done in a way that is not cumbersome or invasive, and we look forward to discussing it in the cross-party talks on Thursday.”
The three party leaders are due to continue cross-party talks on the issue later this week.
Tories have dismissed Labour’s proposals as “lacking in detail,” but Lib Dems welcomed it as an “important contribution to the cross party talks.”