Freedom of Press Is Vital Says Leveson

Article excerpt

Byline: Colin Fernandez and Michael Seamarks

FREEDOM of the press is 'fundamental' to protecting democracy, Lord Justice Leveson declared yesterday.

Formally opening his inquiry, he said there was 'a great deal to applaud in the British press' - and he would not be limited to finding fault with the media's work.

'From the very start I made it clear that I fully consider the freedom of expression and freedom of the press to be fundamental to our democracy and fundamental to our way of life,' he said. 'But that freedom must be exercised with others in mind.'

On the subject of regulation, Lord Justice Leveson said the work of the inquiry - which is expected to report its initial findings in September 2012 - could be summed up in one simple question: 'Who guards the guardians?' - an apparent reference to who oversees the work of the press.

He said he had encouraged newspaper editors to meet and discuss these issues outside his hearings and submit ideas about how the press could be better regulated.

Any regulation 'must reflect the fundamental freedoms to which I have referred', added Lord Justice Leveson. 'But it must also recognise that "guard the guardians" is not an optional add-on.

'Neither is it good enough if it does not take account of the legitimate public concern, not only about phone hacking, but also other unethical behaviour not justified by what is truly in the public interest. …