A former journalist and Cabinet minister has spoken out in favour of statutory regulation of the press, blaming a “deeply rotten culture” in the industry.
Lord Fowler, a former Times journalist and one-time chairman of the Birmingham Post, said he supported Lord Leveson’s plans for a new press regulator back by legislation.
He claimed that the values which he and most members of the profession held high had been “trampled into the dirt” over recent years.
The peer made his comments in an interview with the Post, of which he was chairman prior to its purchase by Trinity Mirror.
He said: “Let me be quite clear: the journalists and editors I have worked with over the years in the national and regional press were and are predominantly men of honesty and integrity and sometimes of substantial courage, such as the war correspondents now at work in Syria.
“Why is it that in the past two years I have campaigned for change? Basically it is because I have seen the values that I and most journalists hold high trampled into the dirt.
“It is because I have seen so-called journalists attacking the public rather than carrying out their essential duty of standing up for their rights; and it is because I have seen a newspaper industry unable and unwilling to take action against palpable wrong-doing.
“One may say that actions such as phone hacking are criminal offences, and so they are, but what they also pointed to was a deeply rotten culture which had grown up in some parts of the press.”
Lord Fowler said the media’s treatment of MP Andrew Mitchell, his successor MP in Sutton Coldfield, demonstrated that little had changed even after the media’s behaviour was placed under the spotlight.
Mr Mitchell resigned from the Cabinet in October following reports of a confrontation with police officers, and Lord Fowler claimed journalists hounded him and his family chasing the story.
Lord Leveson’s report, released at the end of last year, called for a new independent press regulator backed up in law.
The Government has opposed the plans and put forward alternative proposals to create a new regulator using an instrument called a Royal Charter, avoiding the need for legislation.