A BADGE OF GOOD JOURNALISM; We Need 'Kitemark' for Press Standards, Mail Editor Tells Leveson

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Byline: Vanessa Allen and Michael Seamark

A NEW era of newspaper self-regulation was set out by the editor of the Daily Mail yesterday.

Paul Dacre proposed a fresh system of accrediting journalists which could be the 'essential kitemark' to safeguard press standards.

He told the Leveson Inquiry that the present system of press cards was 'haphazard'.

Those guilty of the most serious misconduct could have their press cards removed, in the same way as doctors are struck off. But all newspapers and accredited freelance agencies would have to sign up for the scheme.

Mr Dacre suggested that agencies using paparazzi should be encouraged to join a reinvigorated and strengthened Press Complaints Commission, and said the public should be consulted in an inquiry to determine the practical definition of legitimate public interest.

And he voiced his support for recommendations made last week by the PCC chairman Lord Hunt, who has suggested a separate unit working alongside the new regulatory body to uphold standards; contracts to lock newspapers into the new body; and an arbitration system to settle privacy and libel complaints rapidly and cheaply reducing 'predatory' legal fees.

Mr Dacre, Fleet Street's longest serving editor, said he accepted that the present PCC should be bolstered by a separate regulatory body to deal with abuses of standards. Such a body could be run by a Press Ombudsman with powers to investigate editors and journalists and impose sanctions, including the removal of press accreditation.

Mr Dacre, editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, told the inquiry that the new system should come under one 'umbrella body' rather than the 17 bodies at the moment providing these cards.

'By transforming it into an essential kitemark for ethical and proper journalism ... the public at large would know journalists carrying such cards are bona fide operators, committed to a set of standards and a body to whom complaints can be made.'

Without the new press card, journalists would not have access to key Government briefings or official press conferences held by ministries, councils or the police, or to royal, sporting or celebrity events.

Mr Dacre said state licensing of journalists or regulation of newspapers was 'clearly unacceptable' and called on the industry to sign up to rigorous self-regulation.

'By and large, the scandals that have emerged over the last few years and recently have been to do with issues that are above the law.

'Hacking phones is illegal, paying policemen is illegal. I'm not sure what a self-regulatory body was meant to do about that.'

He said he was aware the newspapers had used search agents including Steve Whittamore, who was convicted of illegally accessing data in April 2005. …