by Ray Fleming

Tomorrow Lord Justice Leveson will publish his views on future regulation of the British press following his Inquiry that has heard evidence from all sides. It is thought likely that Leveson will propose some form of regulation buttressed by legislation. There will be some support for this idea but probably more opposition from a variety of sources that believe any legislative connection between government and press would be a slippery slope leading to the end of a truly free press that is fundamental to democracy. In a magnificent article yesterday the Editor of The Times, James Harding, set out his preferred outcome: first, an independent regulator to judge complaints against the press and ensure appropriate redress where justified; second, an Oversight Panel appointed by the Lord Chief Justice to monitor the regulator's performance and effectiveness and to be a guarantor of its independence. The article pointed out that journalists are already governed by laws that apply to all citizens; crimes such as phone hacking and bribery of police officers which were at the heart of the Leveson Inquiry do not require new legislation but better enforcement.

The former partial self-regulation of the press did not work well enough. Regulation stemming from legislation that gives parliament and government a foot in the press door is a threat to freedom. The right course is wholly independent regulation of the kind outlined above.

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