I hope that Blackhurst is exaggerating about the content of the final report, but if he is not, the Leveson Inquiry will have failed in achieving its original and necessary goal
This week, a letter sent out by the Leveson Inquiry gave UK newspapers an indication of what they are going to hear in Lord Leveson’s final report, due out in the autumn. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that national newspaper editors are getting twitchy. Chris Blackhurst (pictured below), editor of The Independent, is particularly unsettled, claiming that the final report will cause untold damage to the UK’s papers, and calling it a ‘point by point demolition of the industry’.
Leveson, he says, is ‘loading a gun, and this document is the ammunition. And believe you me there is plenty of ammunition’. If Blackhurst is right about the tone and contents of this final report — and, of course, given his position, we should beware of exaggeration in his comments — then the Inquiry has departed significantly from its original purpose.
The Leveson Inquiry was announced by the Prime Minister on the 13th July 2011 to investigate the role of the police and press in the phone hacking scandal. It has been a tightly structured investigation consisting of four modules, each addressing a different issue: first, the relationship between press and the public (including phone hacking); secondly, the relationship between press, and police, and thirdly the relationship between press and politicians.
Finally, to follow later this year and in the words of the Inquiry’s website, it will offer ‘recommendations for a more effective policy and regulation that supports the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards’.
However, what the Inquiry promised was a constructive and fair criticism of UK journalism, based on extensive investigation and hundreds of witness reports, and, finally, a number of recommendations based on that investigation.
Despite the dirt that still clings to parts of the UK media industry, we should not forget that in this country we have some of the highest quality written and broadcast journalism in the world. Leveson’s exhaustive inquiry set out to provide recommendations for how to maintain that quality — an essential precondition of which, of course, is freedom — and how journalistic practice might be better regulated to prevent foul play.
What it did not set out to deliver was a one-sided diatribe against UK media – which would just be useless and pointless for all parties involved. For the final report to be of genuine use to UK media, it must be fair and constructive, while of course not understating the seriousness of the industry’s misdemeanours. I hope that Blackhurst is exaggerating about the content of the final report, but if he is not, the Leveson Inquiry will have failed in achieving its original and necessary goal.
Read more by Mark Nayler