The British Government Has Decided To Censor The Entire World's Press And Media
They've agreed a law which effectively censors the entire world's media. And they've done this simply because they are ignorant of the very laws
they're trying to change. Which is, I think you'll agree, a little disturbing, that politicians would casually negate press freedom just because they don't know what they're doing.
The problem is the particular restrictions that
they've decided to bring in. Essentially, to be a news or current affairs publisher then you must be registered as such with some regulatory body. That this is a despicable idea goes without saying: it's a reversal of the past three hundred years of
liberty where we've been allowed to say or print whatever we damn well want to subject only to the laws of libel, incitement to immediate violence and pressing concerns of national security (and even that last was a voluntary matter). If there's a
complaint about something you've published then that regulatory body can get you to correct it, apologise, pay damages and so on. And of course we all worry that this will then morph into more direct control of the press.
basis of the English legal system is that yes, of course, you can bring a case against anyone you like for whatever you want to allege. But the limit on people doing so is that if they lose said case then they've got to pay the legal costs of the
defendant. This is how we prevent most (but sadly not all) frivolous cases from ever making it to court. You have to take a risk in bringing a case.
Note that, if you're a publisher who is not regulated, then you won't get your
defense costs paid even if you do win. Therefore there will be costs associated with being complained about: whether that complaint has any justification or none. This does rather leave all press outlets open to shakedowns from anyone and everyone.
A shellshocked newspaper industry was struggling to come to terms with a sudden all-party agreement to create a powerful new press censor.
The nominally independent censor seems be subject to state approval and will have powers to impose fines and
demand prominent corrections. Courts will be allowed to impose exemplary damages on newspapers that fail to join the body.
All three party leaders hailed the historic deal, sealed in extraordinary late-night talks on Sunday in the office of
the Labour leader Ed Miliband after months of wrangling, but many of the country's leading newspaper publishers were ominously wary.
Under the deal, the newspaper industry has lost its power to veto appointments to the body that will replace the
Press Complaints Commission.
In a statement, Associated Newspapers, News International, the Telegraph Media Group and the Express's publishers, Northern & Shell, said they would be taking high-level legal advice before deciding if they
could join the new watchdog. The deal, they said, raised several deeply contentious issues.
No representative of the newspaper and magazine industry had any involvement in, or indeed any knowledge of, the cross-party
talks on press regulation that took place on Sunday night, they said. We have only late this afternoon seen the royal charter that the political parties have agreed between themselves and, more pertinently, the recognition criteria, early drafts of which
contained several deeply contentious issues which have not yet been resolved with the industry.
Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor-in-chief, gave a cautious welcome to the deal. He said:
welcome the fact that there has been cross-party agreement. The regulatory settlement is by and large a fair one, with compromises on all sides. We retain grave reservations about the proposed legislation on exemplary damages. The agreed terms are not
ideal but after two years of inquiry and debate we finally have the prospect of what the public wants - a robust regulator that is independent of both press and politics. It's a big improvement on what went before.
sought to reassure small-scale web-based news providers and blogs that they would not be required to co-operate with the new regulatory system. No 10 said bloggers, tweeters, news aggregators and social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, as
well as special interest titles, would be excluded, but there was concern that a workable definition of these would be difficult to come up with.
A rather lightweight report on the regulation of the press in Scotland has recommended statutory controls underpinned by law which applies to all news media no matter how small.
John McCluskey was invited to chair a committee by First Minister
Alex Salmond after the Leveson Report. The McCluskey report concluded that a voluntary code was unlikely to work, but opposition parties at Holyrood described the proposals as draconian .
The former high court judge and solicitor general
chaired a group set up to recommend press regulation reforms in Scotland.
His report recommended the creation of an independent, non-statutory, regulatory body of a character to be proposed by the press , alongside an independent body with responsibility for ensuring that the independent regulatory body complies at all times with the Leveson principles
The expert group said that if Westminster fails to create a UK-wide press regulator, Holyrood should create one.
The regulator could have the power to censor newspapers, magazines and websites, including gossip sites, while the
expert group said further regulation of social media may also be required.
The co-convener of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, said his party supported the implementation of the Leveson proposals. But he added:
The McCluskey report appears to go much further than anyone had expected.
To include every source of news coverage would result in a torrent of complaints about every website, every blog, even every single
tweet. I cannot see how this is remotely practical, even if it was desirable.
If the will exists in Scotland to see the Leveson proposals implemented, it should not be beyond our ability to ensure that professional, commercial
media organisations are properly regulated, but individual citizens are not caught up in the same system.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said:
We agreed with the first minister that this group
should look solely at the technicalities of implementing Leveson in Scots law. We did not agree to the Leveson recommendations being re-written or built upon.
While Lord McCluskey and his fellow panel members are not to be
criticised, rather than pursue the original agreed objective they were asked to rework Leveson on a ridiculously short timescale.
That in itself appears to be bad faith on the first minister's part. We hope he will take forward
the recommendation that Scotland would be best served by having a UK-wide solution.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the first minister of trying to shackle a free press at a time of the utmost political
A total fantasist who posted gruesome videos on Facebook of al-Qaeda beheading captives has been jailed for five years. Craig Slee pleaded guilty to four offences under the 2006 Terrorism Act and also admitted possession of can of CS gas.
On sentencing him at Preston Crown Court, Judge Anthony Russell QC said:
It beggars belief that anyone can have an interest in such material which reveals a shocking and barbaric depravity and complete absence of any degree of humanity.
Slee also put online links to a
communique by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claiming those from the west were Crusaders and encouraging terrorism.
The court heard, Slee created a false identity and set up a Facebook page - using the alter-ego Hashim X Shakur.
Slee claimed to be a Muslim and provided personal information about himself, the majority of which was false. He also engaged in Facebook chat with other people and kept up his pretence of his alter-ego, claiming he had been on trips to Jalalabad, had
suffered shrapnel injuries and implied he was a member of the Taliban, said police. However, the court heard Slee has no connection to the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist network or organisation.
Det Ch Supt Tony Mole, head of the North
West Counter Terrorism Unit, said:
It is clear that Slee was a total fantasist.He had no links whatsoever to any terrorist organisations, was not a radical convert and there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest he
engaged in any attack planning.
While Slee may not have been planning any sort of attack, he could easily have influenced someone else with the propaganda he was uploading.
Just the title of Lawrence Wright's Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief tells you more than many books on the subject. Going Clear is a veritable book of revelations on L Ron Hubbard's sci-fi religion, exhaustively
detailing its history, its methods and the depth of its weirdness.
Or so we're told. While Going Clear goes on sale in the US and the rest of Europe this week, you can't buy it in Britain. Not because it threatens national security, or features
royal breasts, but because of our uniquely obliging libel laws.
Unlike in other countries, under English and Welsh law the burden of proof in defamation cases rests exclusively on the defendant, which means that if someone sues you, it's up to you
to prove that it's true. If that someone is, say, a pharmaceutical company, or a church that believes in space people, then you're in for a long, expensive time in court, even if you win (legal costs here are up to 140 times higher than international
norms). Hence Transworld's decision not to publish. The legal advice was that Going Clear's content was not robust enough for the UK market, they say.