Dave says no deal to Nick and Ed; they will now have to vote him down on Monday. Channelling Churchill the PM says “a free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny”. Labour will now have to wreck the Crime and Courts bill if they want to pursue statutory regulation. The trap is set…
Britain’s infamously draconian libel laws have made London the libel tourism capital of the world. They are one of the reasons that this blog’s server is in California; the publication takes place in the US, under the protection of the First Amendment. It may be of little difference to Guido, but one of the few noble acts of this government has been the Defamation Bill, which would finally bring about much needed libel reform. Step forward Labour luvvie Lord Puttnam.
Puttnam’s wrecking amendment is a naked attempt to force through the failed Leveson proposals. He is calling for a “specialist arbitration service” that would require newspapers to to sign up to a new regulator. Underpinned by statute, naturally. Sound familiar? Hacked Off backing the move is hardly the shock of the century, they have deservedly lost a lot of friends as a result. Index on Censorship, who campaign against freedom of expression abuses around the world, are worried. They tell Guido:
“While the Defamation Bill has been through 3 parliamentary committees and has the backing of our 60,000 supporters, Puttnam’s attempt to introduce Leveson by the back door was debated and passed in 126 minutes. The government has got to take the initiative, get the Defamation Bill into the House of Commons and then MPs will need to show their constituents whether they back the draconian Puttnam amendment or not.”
Puttnam is trying to kill libel reform. You can tell him and his Leveson-loving, press freedom-hating cronies where to go here…
Yesterday Guardian journalists gleefully drew Guido’s attention to a clause in Maria Miller’s proposed legislation that attempts to bring this blog into the regulated, un-free press sector that is being created post-Leveson. Guido has highlighted the ambitious clause in red below…
1. For the purposes of this Charter:
a) “Regulator” means an independent body formed by or on behalf of relevant publishers for the purpose of conducting regulatory activities in relation to their publications;
b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:
a. a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or
b. a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);
c) “broadcaster” means:
a. the holder of a licence under the Broadcasting Act 1990 or 1996;
b. the British Broadcasting Corporation; or
c. Sianel Pedwar Cymru;
d) a person “publishes in the United Kingdom” if the publication takes place in the United Kingdom or is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom;
e) “news-related material” means:
i. news or information about current affairs;
ii. opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs; or
iii. gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news.
It is arguable – and Guido does argue – that since this blog’s server is in California the publication takes place in the US, under the protection of the First Amendment. Readers point their browsers at http://www.order-order.com and download the content from the server cache. The publishing tool is the server and it is definitely not in the United Kingdom. Which is why they introduced the second part: “or is is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom”. That is an interesting idea, which hopefully won’t catch on internationally. Imagine if the Iranian regime implemented the same law, demanding that the BBC’s Persian Service, which is broadcast from London, submitted to their regulator. Crazy.
Guido would be interested to hear what the many m’learned friends who read this blog think of this bit of the legislation. Who will the regulator pursue? Individual bloggers personally when they are in the jurisdiction? A foreign citizen, uploading to a foreign-hosted website, published by a foreign domiciled company – seems to Guido that this legal extra-territoriality has dubious legal foundations. Perhaps Maria Miller is planning to send Royal Navy gunboats to Wexford and California?
It can be changed by two thirds of Parliament.
It seems the Tories want to try to regulate Guido:
“relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom: a. a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or b. a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine)”
A full house for last night’s Spectator Leveson debate. Guido took to the stage alongside Richard Littlejohn and John Whittingdale to defend the freedom of the press against Murdoch-haters Max Mosley and Chris Bryant. Media lawyer Charlotte Harris turned up late so she was replaced by her swivel-eyed namesake Evan, the failed LibDem politician.
Highlights included Littlejohn calling out Hacked Off as “Leveson-loving left-wing luvvies, bien pensant self-appointed moral guardians”, and Bryant’s tale of a man turning up at his door offering “submissive” services only for the topless photo-taking MP to tell him to “f**k off”. Guido revealed his first meeting with Bryant, when the Rhondda MP said he wanted this blog closed down. Max Mosley seemed to enjoy talking about his “humiliation” at the hands of the Screws, for some reason.
“Leveson is a fundamental threat to the free press”. Motion carried…
N.B. Guido’s speech in favour of the motion is here.
Guardian hack Nick Davies once called the Press Complaints Commission “corrupt” and has written numerous pieces attacking it. So Guido was surprised to hear that he was not averse to threatening to use it himself. In October a journalist from the Mail rang Davies up about a diary piece concerning what a girlfriend, Imogen Lycett Green, is said to have told giggling friends. The details are not suitable for a family blog – think Max Mosley without the Germans.
He went absolutely crackers, surprisingly. Guido hears that Davies was able to recite vast chunks of the PCC code word for word down the phone. Threatening them with the PCC equivalent of hell and damnation if his vice anglais became public…
What a surprise that the EU has intervened into the Leveson debate and wants to implement draconian press controls across the great project. New potential European Commission recommendations will apparently offer “respect, protection, support and promotion of media freedom and pluralism in Europe”, yet it doesn’t take very long before things get rather sinister:
“All EU countries should have independent media councils… Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.”
First they came for the journalists…
UPDATE: Toby Young has found an even worse line:
“The national media councils should follow a set of European-wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values.”
Hugh Grant’s lobbying group Hacked Off are trying very hard to pretend that they do not support statutory regulation of the press. Their draft bill, which would implement Leveson in full, is nicely dressed up as apparently defending “media freedom”, when in fact the opposite is true. They claim that ‘The Leveson Bill will enshrine press freedom in law. Political meddling will only debase it,” yet their “statutory underpinning” falls over almost immediately. In the third clause to be precise:
(3) Interference with the activities of the media by Ministers
of the Crown and public officials shall be unlawful
unless it is for a legitimate purpose and is necessary in a
democratic society, having full regard to the importance
of media freedom in a democracy.
So the government can’t intervene with the press unless it “for a legitimate purpose”. And who will be deciding what is and is not a “legitimate purpose”? Surely not the lawmakers? Back to the drawing board please, freedom haters.