Lord Black of Brentwood, Telegraph Media Group executive director, has told WAN-IFRA’S annual congress in Turin how attacks on press freedom in the UK have had a debilitating effect on free speech across the world.
In his speech this week, Lord Black, Commonwealth Press Union chairman, said the British press had endured a “severe, sustained and prolonged attack for the last three years” which has included a large criminal investigation into sections of the press, the Leveson inquiry which resulted in “draconian legislation” being passed, and “judicial activism” which has resulted in the establishment of “a fully fledged privacy law.”
Lord Black continued: “Not only has this been hugely dangerous for the press in Britain, it has robbed us of all moral authority to be able to try to help countries battling authoritarianism in establishing a free press. Where once we were able to draw on our long liberal history of protecting free speech and use our experience to do what we could to support freedom of expression “everywhere in the world” – the fourth of Roosevelt’s four fundamental freedoms – now we are cited as a shining example by those who want to shackle the free press.
“But it is not all doom and gloom. While the situation remains very dangerous for press freedom in Britain, I believe there is some light on the horizon. The UK newspaper industry has remained united and strong throughout this assault, and has already established a new self-regulatory body, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (or IPSO), to replace the Press Complaints Commission. IPSO – which should begin work in September – will provide an independent, effective and tough system of regulation for UK newspapers and magazines which we will argue will make unnecessary the need for any further laws.
“And the Royal Charter on press regulation has so far run into the sand, with the Government unable to date to find anyone to chair its Recognition Body. The industry remains wholly opposed to it, and has been challenging it in the Courts. If necessary, because the stakes are so high, it is a battle we will take to Strasbourg which has a much stronger track record of protecting freedom of expression than the British Courts seem to.”
WAN-IFRA’s World Newspaper Congress and World Advertising Forum this week heard from a host of speakers from across the globe including The Sun editor David Dinsmore, Newsworks deputy chief executive Vanessa Clifford, Guardian News and Media deputy editor Janine Gibson and NASA regional media managing director Gary McNish.
Also at the Conference, the 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom, WAN-IFRA’s annual press freedom prize, was awarded to jailed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega who has become an symbol of Ethiopia’s struggle for democracy with his commitment to human rights placing him in jail on at least seven occasions.
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