14 July 2011
THE Chartered Institute of Journalists has reacted with concern to comments made by Nick Clegg today (July 14) on media regulation.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the deputy prime minister said that the phone hacking scandal should be used as an opportunity to “clean up” the relationship between the press, politicians and police.
The scandal “clearly goes beyond News International,” he said, and was a “systemic” symptom of a “cosy” establishment.
He added that the rules on media plurality should be re-examined and the “entirely toothless” Press Complaints Commission looked at.
Amanda Brodie, chairman of the CIoJ’s Professional Practices Board, said: “As a professional institution which protects the rights of journalists, we are very concerned at this latest suggestion from the Government that such illegal practices as phone-hacking are so widespread within the industry.
“To suggest that illegal practices are endemic amongst the press is wholly wrong, and a slur on our profession. The vast majority of journalists are happy to subscribe to the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct and go about their business in a responsible and totally legal fashion.
“This kind of irresponsible comment leads to knee-jerk reactions.
“It is also disingenuous of the Government to start complaining about the ‘cosy’ relationship with the press, which so many politicians encouraged and benefited from, but are now condemning because it is politically expedient for them to do so.”
Amanda Brodie added: “During this interview, Mr Clegg also accused the PCC of being ‘in the pockets of the media it is supposed to be regulating.’ What evidence does he have for making this statement?
“The role of the PCC certainly needs to be looked at, but the Government has no power to do this since the PCC is not a government organisation. It can of course legislate to regulate the press perhaps by creating a new body, but who is to say this new body would be any more independent, especially if it is set up and administered by government?”
She added: “Mr Clegg said today: ‘Things always go wrong when you give anyone… a lot of power, and they’ve got no responsibility to answer for it,’ – and that is exactly what happened with the MPs’ expenses scandal – it was the press who made the politicians answer for it. We should not forget the vital role the press plays in protecting the public, and it must be free to continue to do this. Indeed, it should not be forgotten that it was, in fact, elements of the Press that kept the pressure on regarding illegal phone hacking, long after the police and the NoW had found no further need to re-examine the affair.
“However, we do welcome Mr Clegg’s comment that: ‘It is important that we do not let the free press be undermined by the out of control press’ and we hope this will be the government’s mantra as it seeks to determine any change in the laws of media regulation in this country.”
Notes to editors:
Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.
Contact: Amanda Brodie 07775 992563