Lebedev: We Must Take Greater Care to Protect Freedom of Press

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

NEWSPAPERS must uphold the highest standards if they are to protect freedom of speech from attacks by the rich and powerful, the chairman of the Evening Standard warned.

Delivering the inaugural Christ Church Gorbachev Lecture on Press Freedom at Oxford, Evgeny Lebedev said the "dark, murky methods" of the phone-hacking scandal and the alleged payment of corrupt police officers had both risked weakening the ability of the press to fend off attacks.

"This theft of information by dark, murky methods is not journalism of which I or my newspapers want any part," he said. "The journalists involved behaved irresponsibly, rashly and recklessly, forsaking their duty of care. Unfortunately, their dereliction of duty brings all the press into disrepute.

"It invites a crackdown of enforced draconian laws and threatens our muchvalued press freedom." He asked: "Is it mere coincidence that while the phonehacking affair has been moving apace, the judges have taken it upon themselves to issue blanket, stifling superinjunctions -- protecting celebrities?" Calling for greater responsibility, Mr Lebedev said too much "trivia" was passed off as urgent news in Britain, fuelling the campaign for privacy laws.

The danger was that the super-injunctions taken out by celebrities and sports stars would be used ruthlessly by powerful elites "to prevent bona fide inquiries into their behaviour and possible misuse of their positions". …