Defend Freedom of Press from Judges and Celebs, Says Gove
Byline: Jason Groves Political Correspondent
THE Leveson inquiry into Press standards has created a 'chilling atmosphere' which threatens free speech in Britain, Michael Gove warned yesterday.
In an outspoken defence of the Press, the Education Secretary cautioned against allowing 'judges, celebrities and the establishment' to set the boundaries of free speech because they had a vested interest in shackling the media. Mr Gove, one of David Cameron's closest allies, also appeared to question the Prime Minister's decision to set up the inquiry last year, warning there was a danger it would produce 'a cure that is worse than the original disease'.
Addressing a Westminster lunch, Mr Gove acknowledged the need to investigate alleged wrongdoing at the News of the World. But he said there were already laws to prevent reporters 'going rogue', including specific offences of intercepting voicemail messages and bribing public officials.
Mr Gove, a former senior journalist at The Times, said there was a natural temptation for politicians to 'succumb' to demands for an inquiry by an 'establishment' figures in the wake of a major scandal. But he warned there were 'dangers' in the wideranging inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Leveson.
He said: 'There is a danger at the moment that what we may see are judges, celebrities, and the establishment, all of whom have an interest in taking over from the Press as arbiters of what a free Press should be, imposing either soft or hard regulation.
'What we should be encouraging is the maximum amount of freedom of expression and the maximum amount of freedom of speech.' He added: 'Journalists should be more assertive in making the case for Press freedom, and politicians should recognise that we have nothing to gain and everything to lose from fettering a Press which has helped keep us honest in the past and ensured that the standard of debate in this country is higher than in other jurisdictions. …