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Call for a media fighting fund

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Editor of the Western Mail, and outgoing president of the Society of Editors, Neil Fowler has called on editors and publishers throughout the country to establish a fighting fund to ensure human rights case law favours freedom of expression.

He told the Society’s annual conference: “We cannot allow case law to develop because a small local newspaper can’t afford to fight a particular action – and equally we cannot allow case law to be established that benefits only one aspect of our industry.

“Let us work together so that when case law is established in human rights it is the right case law that benefits the flow of information for our readers, our viewers and our listeners – and our surfers.”

A fund to which all the media contributed would, he said, enable the right case to be fought, the right case to be won and the right precedents to be in place.

Earlier, the conference had heard the Director of the Press Complaints Commission, Guy Black, say he did not feel the new Human Rights Act would pose any serious restrictions on newspapers and the way they work.

He added: “One good thing to follow from all this is that the Freedom of Expression part of the legislation will shut up people who have called for statutory controls on the press.

“The doors on that last chance saloon have closed permanently and a good thing too.”

Mr Black also poured cold water on suggestions that individuals should have the power, through court injunctions, to stop newspapers running stories at all in order to protect their privacy.

He said: “I think I would suggest that papers shut up shop and go home if people could get injunctions to stop stories going to press.

“The idea of a free press is that people publish their stories and then deal with the consequences afterwards.”

But legal expert Andrew Nicol QC told delegates: “You’re going to have a rash of solicitors and people trying to use the Human Rights Act in all sorts of contexts.

“This is ground-breaking legislation and a dramatically different kind from that we have seen in the past.

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