Shami Chakrabarti is the director of the civil rights group ‘Liberty’ and was one of six advisors to the Leveson committee.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Ms Chakrabarti said that Leveson’s demand for compulsory press regulation would be illegal and breach the Human Rights Act.
Her primary objections are concerned with the appointment of a government quango such as Ofcom as a regulator. Such a quango would have significant powers to penalise news providers, which would contravene Article 10 of the European on Human Rights, in which the right to free speech is guaranteed, and which is part of the British Human Rights Act. Ms Chakrabari said in the interview ‘A compulsory statute to regulate media ethics in the way the report suggests would violate the Act, and I cannot support it. It would mean the press was being coerced in being held to higher standards than anyone else, and this would be unlawful.’
She also criticised groups who are pro-legislation, such as ‘Hacked Off’ which are led by celebrities such as Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan saying ‘There has been a great deal of ill-informed debate, with people bandying about terms such as “statutory underpinning” with little grasp of what this would mean.’
The statement of Ed Millband on the day the Leveson report was published that he would back the report fully was also criticised by Ms Chakrabarti. She criticised his statement citing that he could not have fully read the 2000 page report before declaring his support for it, and went on to say ‘He should have been more careful about what he said. To declare his full support so early, when he cannot have read it, was hasty. He should have reflected on it. This is a policy that must not be rushed.’
We have already criticised the Leveson report for recommending the legislation of how the press reports in our post ‘UK – Gagging the press – Leveson’.
But to hear that one of the primary advisors to the committee has been totally ignored is disturbing. The advisors were appointed to provide expert advice to the committee under the auspice of a fair and unbiased investigation. Yet it seems that Lord Leveson and his cronies have done nothing more than cherry-picked the advice given to them in order to please their masters.
Shami Chakrabarti is not the only advisor to be ignored. George Jones who is the former political editor for the Daily Telegraph shares the view of Ms Chakrabarti, and his advice was ignored. Their views and advice has also been supported by lawyers who are experts in Media Law.
The concept of employing a bias government quango such as Ofcom to enforce press regulation is like asking a fox to look after chickens. Ofcom is a puppet organisation of government and should not be involved in how the press reports.
As we have already stated in ‘UK – Gagging the press – Leveson’, there is already a very robust system in place for those who consider they have been wronged by the press to seek recompense.
ALL THAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN IS FOR THE SYSTEM TO BE MORE AFFORDABLE!
It also seems that those ‘celebrities’ involved in the pro-legislation organisations seem to have been ‘caught-out’ at some time by the press. Get over it!
There is no doubt that the press needs to steer away from sensationalism in reporting. But the proposes made by the Leveson report smack of government interference and vested interests in ensuring the press report what those in power want the public to hear, rather that truth – good or not so good.