COMMENT: Editor defends role of newspapers ahead of Leveson Report

First published in News by

A FREE press is essential to a truly democratic society, writes Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill.

Weaken the former and you weaken the latter. It really is as simple as that. There are no half measures when it comes to the regulation of a free press. You cannot have ‘a little bit of legislation.’ It’s all or nothing.

Am I being paranoid? You bet I am.

There are some people in power out there – politicians and public servants included – who utter fine words about democracy and accountability and then do all they can to cover up their corruption and hypocrisy. They have scores to settle.

The press does have a lot to answer for and, if truth be told, we have brought much of this upon ourselves.

As for the Press Complaints Commission in its current form, it has had its day.

If Leveson flushes out the immoral, illegal and downright despicable practices of a small section of our industry, he will have done journalism and society as a whole a great service.

If he advocates a regulatory body backed by legislation and that is implemented by this Government, he and every politician who supports him will go down in history as the people who made future curbs on press freedom possible.

The pendulum has swung too far towards a small but powerful section of the press that has thrown its moral compass out of the window. Of that there is no doubt.

The rabid clamour for legislation is pushing it too far in the other direction and it is society as a whole, as well as the honest, responsible press vital to a functioning democracy, that will suffer.’

Comments (8)

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12:56pm Thu 29 Nov 12

Whitto says...

A responsible free press - yes. A criminal press - no.

The problem is that the right to self governance has been lost in thes eyes of the public - if for no other reason than the hacking of Millie Dowlers phone that gave her parents hope she was still alive.

Alos if you have nothing to hode then what do you have to fear if regulation is made tighter? The press is great at keeping public figures in check, look at the expenses scandel, but there has to be a point where journalists and editors stop and think what the outcomes will be before publishing or even using ceratin methods of investiagtion.

Everyone has a right to private life, no matter if they are in the public eye or not, and the press need to remember that.
A responsible free press - yes. A criminal press - no. The problem is that the right to self governance has been lost in thes eyes of the public - if for no other reason than the hacking of Millie Dowlers phone that gave her parents hope she was still alive. Alos if you have nothing to hode then what do you have to fear if regulation is made tighter? The press is great at keeping public figures in check, look at the expenses scandel, but there has to be a point where journalists and editors stop and think what the outcomes will be before publishing or even using ceratin methods of investiagtion. Everyone has a right to private life, no matter if they are in the public eye or not, and the press need to remember that. Whitto
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1:26pm Thu 29 Nov 12

CowleyBoy says...

With freedom comes responsibility. The press abused their freedom, so now they have to be kept in line.

If we have to take away some of their freedom to stop people's lives being destroyed in the name of selling papers, so be it. It's the only way they'll learn.
With freedom comes responsibility. The press abused their freedom, so now they have to be kept in line. If we have to take away some of their freedom to stop people's lives being destroyed in the name of selling papers, so be it. It's the only way they'll learn. CowleyBoy
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1:33pm Thu 29 Nov 12

Sandy Wimpole-Smythe says...

A FREE press is essential to a truly democratic society, writes Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill.


What, even when this 'free' press is hacking the phone of a murdered school girl ?

The press has repeatedly proved they cannot be trusted to self govern and are not fit to hold the responsibilities which come with a free press.
A FREE press is essential to a truly democratic society, writes Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill. What, even when this 'free' press is hacking the phone of a murdered school girl ? The press has repeatedly proved they cannot be trusted to self govern and are not fit to hold the responsibilities which come with a free press. Sandy Wimpole-Smythe
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5:48pm Thu 29 Nov 12

oxinkytext says...

Completely disagree with this editorial. The press has shown time and time again that it is completely incapable of any form of self government.

Yes, we want good open reporting of the facts and issues, but that does not mean that we want innocent individuals harrassed in the pursuit of "juicy" personal details in order to just sensationalise a story.

Whatever is implemented needs to have some teeth - it should certainly be possible to suspend newspaper publication and individuals when they overstep the mark.
Completely disagree with this editorial. The press has shown time and time again that it is completely incapable of any form of self government. Yes, we want good open reporting of the facts and issues, but that does not mean that we want innocent individuals harrassed in the pursuit of "juicy" personal details in order to just sensationalise a story. Whatever is implemented needs to have some teeth - it should certainly be possible to suspend newspaper publication and individuals when they overstep the mark. oxinkytext
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10:28pm Thu 29 Nov 12

xjohnx says...

Is it the free press that hacks phones, bribes the police, slanders with impunity and intimidates opponents?

That's not free press, its freedom to bully!

Shame on the editor!

Is control by oversight committee worse than control by self interested publishers and greedy owners?
Is it the free press that hacks phones, bribes the police, slanders with impunity and intimidates opponents? That's not free press, its freedom to bully! Shame on the editor! Is control by oversight committee worse than control by self interested publishers and greedy owners? xjohnx
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7:10am Fri 30 Nov 12

Sandy Wimpole-Smythe says...

So, Mr editor, you say you do not want regulation but a free press. Explain to me exactly how if after the six chances the press have had to put their house in order you expect a seventh chance to be any different ?
So, Mr editor, you say you do not want regulation but a free press. Explain to me exactly how if after the six chances the press have had to put their house in order you expect a seventh chance to be any different ? Sandy Wimpole-Smythe
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4:31am Sun 2 Dec 12

Pavinder Msvarensy says...

And sandy, this cannot be the same Oxford Mail editor calling for freedom of speech of the press that deletes peoples on-line accounts en-masse without any explanation, or appeal system at all, thus stopping freedom of speech can it?
And sandy, this cannot be the same Oxford Mail editor calling for freedom of speech of the press that deletes peoples on-line accounts en-masse without any explanation, or appeal system at all, thus stopping freedom of speech can it? Pavinder Msvarensy
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7:33am Fri 7 Dec 12

Sandy Wimpole-Smythe says...

Amazing, you Mr Editor are calling for a 'free press' and yet you still remove comments thereby denying my 'free speech'. You cannot have free speech for the press and censorship for the masses. Oh and you still haven't explained why you think it was and will be in the future OK for the press to hack dead school childens phones.
Amazing, you Mr Editor are calling for a 'free press' and yet you still remove comments thereby denying my 'free speech'. You cannot have free speech for the press and censorship for the masses. Oh and you still haven't explained why you think it was and will be in the future OK for the press to hack dead school childens phones. Sandy Wimpole-Smythe
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