Union condemns Prime Minister after he walks out of cross-party talks

Tim Lezard

NewspapersThe NUJ has condemned the latest twist in the Leveson debate as cynical political opportunism.

David Cameron yesterday walked out of cross-party talks, saying there was no consensus on press regulation.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “It is hugely ironic that those owners and editors who vehemently opposed Leveson’s recommendations for an independent regulatory system, have so lost perspective in the collective hysteria that has gripped them in recent months, that they’ve colluded in a Royal Charter fudge that could risk opening the door to future political meddling in our press.

“Such is Cameron’s desire to please his friends and potential press allies at a time when his political currency is low, that he is foisting a decision on parliament that, if passed, could create a system of regulation that doesn’t create the genuinely independent, robust and responsible framework that’s badly needed.

“It’s a cynical move, coming after the clear cracks and differences amongst publishers that emerged this week – when it’s become apparent to the editors of the Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times that actually, some sort of statutory underpinning would be preferable to a Royal Charter model and would not constitute the attack on press freedom that some of their peers in the industry would have us believe.”

The NUJ has consistently opposed the lack of transparency in the negotiations that have taken place since the publication of the Leveson report. Rather than seize an opportunity to engage with all interested parties in an open process, the discussions between those with the most power in the industry have been held behind closed doors, leading to claims of a stitch up.

Despite clear recommendations that the new regulator and its code committee should not be limited solely to editors and should include journalists and more members of the public, the publishers have lobbied hard to ensure only they and editors are represented on the new body. The move on exemplary damages is to be welcomed, but there is a lack of clarity about how this will be implemented.

MPs now have the opportunity to express their support for a genuinely free press, one that is responsible and not a deal that is an unworkable fudge. This is an opportunity to create a system that is accountable and inclusive – critically, involving journalists and the broader public in a co-regulatory body.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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