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Satchwell quizzes Evans over support for press law

Society of Editors boss Bob Satchwell has questioned Sir Harry Evans over his support for a new law to underpin regulation of the press.

Giving the annual Hugh Cudlipp lecture on Monday, legendary former editor Sir Harry accused the media of misrepresenting Lord Justice Leveson’s report on press standards.

Sir Harry, who edited the Northern Echo in the 60s before moving to the Sunday Times, said he supported the idea that the freedom of the press could be enshrined in law and that it would have helped his old paper uncover such scandals as Thalidomide.

But SoE executive director Bob warned that such a law would open the door to politicians to interfere in newspapers.

Bob told Sir Harry:  “I’m surprised at you saying so strongly we should go down that route with all the battles you have had with politicians in the past, with judges and with lawyers.

“Can we really trust the politicians of the future? That’s why we don’t like it.”

He suggested that Sir Harry would  know from his long experience of clashes with lawyers, judges and politicians that there were dangers of involving law in UK press regulation because there was no written constitution in the UK to prevent politicians of the future amending well intentioned legislation.

Sir Harry replied that whilst safeguards were undoubtedly needed to ensure the freedom of the press from government control, he believed Labour’s current proposals for a press law to underpin Leveson would do that.