Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Editor’s Comment

For journalists who felt relieved that the iniquitous Leveson process had come to an end, and hopeful that the threat to Press freedom in Britain had abated for the time being, the startling reality in 2017 is that the danger of suppression is greater than ever. Assorted celebrity political activists, through their front organisation Hacked-Off, and the misleadingly titled Campaign for Press & Broadcasting Freedom, are stepping up their attempts to muzzle the Press. Their tame, State-approved, regulatory body, Impress, is forcing the pace – even though, as yet, not a single national newspaper has signed up to it, and there is huge opposition to this semi-official quango being given any authority whatsoever. We should not underestimate the ability of Impress and its millionaire backers to get their way.

Financed chiefly by ex-Formula One boss Max Mosley, son of Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, Impress is a bizarre rainbow coalition of far-left agitators and business tycoons. Its goal is to ensure that vested interests take precedence over the public interest. That is why we in the Chartered Institute of Journalists must redouble our own efforts to safeguard Press freedom and defend the rights of journalists. Thankfully, we are not alone. The opposition to Impress includes virtually anyone of any consequence in the Press: all major newspaper groups, The News Media Association (which represents most UK newspaper and magazine publishers), The Society of Editors, Index on Censorship, and the journalists’ magazine Press Gazette. And we have an industry-financed Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), run by the former High Court Judge Sir Alan Moses, enjoying the support of the entire industry and showing that we are well able to police ourselves and to tackle abuses.

We have enjoyed freedom of the Press in this country for over 300 years, since the reign of King William of Orange. In the 21st Century this freedom is being nibbled away at continually by a multitude of legal and legislative threats, and could so easily be snuffed out completely.

Under most intense pressure is the British tradition of fearless investigative journalism. Think of how many scoops might not have been possible if the sort of controls now being mooted, and to some extent already creeping in by the back door, had been in force at the time. Almost certainly there would have been no revelations about Thalidomide, and no MPs’ expenses scandal. The failures of the Police over the murder of Stephen Lawrence would never have come to light, and the Rotherham sex-grooming cover-up would never have been exposed. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Appallingly, Max Mosley and his gang are being aided and abetted by the quisling National Union of Journalists. Whilst the NUJ has long been more concerned to pursue a political agenda than defend the rights of journalists, even I was surprised to see that the union had sunk so low as to be a willing accomplice in Hacked-Off’s campaign to gag our free Press. But this is the reality in 2017 Britain – a trade union that is actively opposed to its own members’ interests and a powerful political movement working to block our free Press and thwart the public interest.

Andy Smith