The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Leveson: Newspaper executive peer claims proposed regulation 'almost certainly illegal'

The Conservative peer and executive director of the Telegraph Media Group Lord Black has spoken out against Parliament's proposals for greater regulation of the press, saying that some parts would breach EU human rights law, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The Government recently announced that the press would in future be regulated by a new body, created by Royal Charter, with a statutory provision ensuring that changes to the Charter could only be made by a two-thirds majority in both the Commons and the Lords.

The proposals go further, however, requiring press organisations and publishers to sign up to the regulator, or face 'exemplary damages', something that Lord Black described as "wrong in principle and fundamentally flawed".

The new rules would force publishers to run stories past the regulator in advance of their publication, or face punitive damages if they fail to do so and the story ends up being untrue.

The proposals have been widely criticised by the media, with many publications such as The Spectator and The Economist pledging not to join any new regulator and others claiming that the arrangements fail to appropriately address the problems created by the internet.

Many fear that the changes will dissuade journalists and publishers from pursuing investigative journalism for fear of prosecution and damages.

Describing the proposals as a 'hammer blow' to investigative journalism, Lord Black told the House of Lords that the 'cobbled together' ideas needed a rethink.

"They were cobbled together late at night over pizza and Kit-Kats with no thought for the legal and constitutional issues involved," he said.

"(They are) alien to decades of English law, and almost certainly illegal under European law," he added.

Supporters believe the deal treads the fine line between stifling the press and protecting the innocent from press intrusion and hounding.

"We need a raucous, unfettered press, but one that does not prey on the vulnerable and innocent," said Baroness Bonham-Carter, a Liberal Democrat peer.


Newspaper regulation 'almost certainly illegal' under EU laws, says Lord Black (The Telegraph)