Political threat to Press Freedom is "astonishingly illiberal and illogical"

Published Jan 04, 2017

patch.jpgThe UKIP Spokesman for the Media, Patrick O'Flynn MEP - and former Express Chief Political Commentator has issued a call to arms against the threat to Press Freedom contained in Article 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.

Mr O'Flynn said, "As UKIP media spokesman, I strongly object to section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. This astonishingly illiberal and illogical measure will mean that newspapers can be made to pay huge legal costs for the sin of telling the truth unless they agree to be regulated by the Government’s approved body. Any newspaper not signing up to the Impress body will have to pay legal costs for both sides in libel actions taken against it whether it wins or loses the case.

"Our libel laws are some of the most restrictive in the world and have in the past assisted such outright criminals as Robert Maxwell and Jimmy Savile in their quest to avoid exposure of their wrongdoing. So for the state to propose that a newspaper which keeps on the right side of these draconian laws when publishing news and commentary should nonetheless be subject to bankruptcy by legal bills is outrageous. To use the Orwellian vernacular, this is doublethink from Big Brother.

"It would in effect hand to any wealthy individual or organisation the ability to close a newspaper down by taking multiple libel actions against it, no matter how spurious. Such a complainant would know that, win or lose, the newspaper would be on the hook for the huge legal costs of both sides.

"This situation would very quickly turn surviving newspapers into little more than public relations outlets for the powerful and the wealthy.

"In a country with a media outlet as dominant as the BBC, newspapers are also important sources of diversity in the range of opinions expressed. And we are lucky in Britain that our national newspapers and their associated websites range from The Guardian on the liberal left to the Daily Mail and others on the conservative right.

"No system of newspaper regulation is ever going to satisfy everybody. But I would urge ministers to recognise that beefed up self-regulation, combined with the very obvious extra stigma that accompanies abuses these days (witness the demise of the News of the World) is by far the least worst option and by far the most compatible with a free society.

"Section 40 should be dumped and freedom of the press preserved."

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