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
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 sensitivity .
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
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:
We 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.
Downing Street 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.
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.
The 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.
Half-Hearted Implementation of Leveson Recommendations is Missed Opportunity for Fair and Equal Representation of Women in the Media
Equality Now, Eaves, Object and the End Violence Against Women Coalition welcome the decision by the government to implement at least the majority of Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations -- particularly in relation to permitting third-party
complaints. However, we consider the currently proposed plan of implementation to be a missed opportunity.
Holly Dustin of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
The much-compromised plan does not provide any guidance about women's equality in the new code; it does not propose that any representative of the equality sector might be part of the new body, and it has made no attempt to bring consistency
between the broadcast watershed and print media in terms of sexually explicit material.
Bloggers will be offered a three-week mini-consultation period, a senior source from the Labour party has told Liberal Conspiracy, to help draft the legislation on web regulation.
The controversial legislation on press and web regulation is likely to be finalised in mid-April. The currently drafted rules exclude various types of publishers including the BBC and other broadcasters, special interest magazines and
A senior source from the shadow media team said the three political parties were looking for the right definition of a small blog.
This [definition] has to steer a path between exempting blogs that are really small and not providing a legal loophole so that newspapers get exemption on all their online activity or are encouraged to avoid the law by restructuring themselves
into a series of small bodies.
We also need to future-proof the law so that as papers gradually move online, we don't see a slide back into the old world.
The aim of the consultation is to determine how to measure size: whether by company turnover, readership, number of staff or some combination.
The Leveson Inquiry was set up to address the culture, practices and ethics of the press, including contacts between the press and politicians and the press and the police . Our views diverge on whether the outcome of the Leveson process
-- and the plans for a new regulator -- are the best way forward. But where we all agree is that current attempts at regulating blogs and other small independent news websites are critically flawed.
The government has defined a relevant publisher for the purposes of press regulation in a way that seeks to draft campaign groups and community-run websites covering neighbourhood planning applications and local council affairs into a
regulator designed for the Guardian, Sun and Daily Mail.
Even the smallest of websites will be threatened with the stick of punitive exemplary damages if they fall foul of a broad range of torts, encompassing everything from libel to breach of confidence . The authors of these proposals
should reflect on their remarkable achievement of uniting both Tom Watson and Rupert Murdoch in opposition.
This appears to be the outcome of a botched late-night drafting process and complete lack of consultation with bloggers, online journalists and social media users, who may now be caught in regulations which trample on grassroots democratic
activity and Britain's emerging digital economy.
Leveson was meant to be focused on the impact of big media . In the end it may come to be seen as a damaging attack on Britain's blogosphere, which rather than being a weakness in British politics, has proved time and time again that it is
a real strength.
We will all continue to write, campaign, cajole, amuse and irritate online. But we consider the current proposals a fundamental threat to doing just that.
A news censor for the press with very real teeth could be established within three or four months to break the political impasse over royal charters, according to a Trinity Mirror executive involved with the project.
Paul Vickers, the legal director of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, said the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) was being fast-tracked in an attempt to kill off accusations that big newspaper groups are conspiring to delay
the introduction of a new censor backed by royal charter. Vickers told BBC Radio 4's The World at One:
What were doing today is setting up a mechanism for creating a self-regulatory system. It's not dependent on a royal charter.
It will take some months to set up because we are following proper public appointment processes. It will be three or four months at the shortest before it's set up.
Draft proposals for setting up Ipso were announced in a joint statement by companies including Rupert Murdoch's News UK, the Daily Mail publisher, Associated Newspapers, and Telegraph Media Group. They said Ipso would be a complete break with
the past and would deliver all the key Leveson recommendations for reform of press regulation.
Vickers said Ipso would have an investigative arm and would impose tough sanctions on errant publishers, including fines of up to £ 1m for systemic wrongdoing, giving it absolute teeth, very real teeth
. Ipso will also offer a whistleblowers' hotline to allow journalists to object to editors who ask them to do anything they believe is unethical.
Victor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, has been condemned by world leaders for introducing the most terrifying press laws since the Cold War . But not a mention by David Cameron
The prime minister's failure to confront Orban is the first evidence of warnings by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, that introducing statutory regulation in Britain will undermine Britain's ability to promote free speech.
Cameron and his government are now at loggerheads with the British newspapers over plans to impose a press censorship regime.
Earlier this week Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, rejected proposals by newspapers to establish a system of self-regulation backed by fines of up to £ 1million for those who breach the code.
Index on Censorship, which campaigns for greater press freedom, described Cameron's failure to confront Mr Orban as a great shame . A spokesman said:
They have introduced some of the most terrifying press and media ownership laws since the Cold War. It is really at the front line of censorship in Europe at the moment. It seems a great shame that the Prime Minister would not even raise this.
Sun journalists have taken to Twitter to denounce the decision taken by The World Transformed , a political event, to not grant them press passes for our four-day festival of politics, arts and music taking place alongside the Labour party
conference in Liverpool next week.
The World Transformed released a statement explaining that this censorship was an act of solidarity with the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, and a show of support for the boycott of the newspaper observed by community groups
and businesses across Liverpool.
Campaigners from Total Eclipse of the S*n and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign will appear at the festival.