LOTS of my constituents have written to me asking about the outcome of the Leveson inquiry, after the scandal of phone hacking.
We should not forget the innocent victims of press intrusion who gave evidence to the inquiry. Victims like the Dowlers and the McCanns, who had to endure the unimaginable trauma of terrible crimes and injuries being inflicted upon their children, followed by unforgivable intrusion and harassment by parts of the media.
They showed real courage in giving evidence so that we can learn from their experiences. I pay tribute to those journalists who worked hard to tell their stories in a respectful and careful way. The journalistic profession should not be tarred by the actions of a few, but it’s clear that the Press Complaints Commission has failed and that business as usual is not an option.
One of the lessons of the Hillsborough disaster is just how long it took to address mistruths once they took hold. So a swift effective system for redress really matters in dealing with any problems that do arise.
As a point of principle, I think a fearless press that holds the powerful to account is essential to democracy. That is why I support a new press complaints system that is independent of both government and the media industry, able to enforce its rulings against all newspapers and accessible to everyone.
Lord Justice Leveson’s report recommends a new system of independent self-regulation, guaranteed by law, which the Labour Party accepts. His proposal starts with the industry setting up a new self-regulatory body, tougher than the old Press Complaints Commission (with the ability to fine newspapers up to £1million), and with independent people appointed to its board.
But for now we must focus on implementing Lord Leveson’s recommendations. Politicians in Westminster need to agree a swift timetable for implementation and we must avoid allowing the Leveson report to sit on a shelf gathering dust.
We have an obligation and an opportunity to bring about real change in the way our media operates and we must not let down the families like the McCanns and the Dowlers, as well as the wider British public, who are counting on us to make the changes that are needed.