I am watching the Leveson Inquiry and as I type the McCann's are giving evidence.

The press it seems had no ethics or morals when it came to this case - they have broken defamation and contempt laws repeatedly, misinformed the public constantly, clearly invaded the McCann's privacy and even fabricated stories. For what end? Profit and circulation? Tabloid competition? 

If the stories would have aided the search for Madeline then maybe they could have been understood, even condoned. But in no way, shape or form did these stories help. They clearly hindered the search, saying Madeline was dead or that she was sold into slavery and blaming her parents. The lies printed by the press distressed Kate and Gerry when they were going through an incredibly hard time. They said the lies were repeated so often that they became truths that people accepted. 

When Madeline first went missing they said the press was supportive, but as information dried up, they looked for more information when there was none - so the press made it up. 

Gerry and Kate McCann said they felt mentally abused by the British Press. The behaviour of the press and the treatment of this sensitive story beggars belief. They felt powerless to stop stories that were untrue as their voice vs the media 'bore no weight'. 

Gerry McCann said: "Clearly we have got to the stage where substandard reporting is a daily occurance." 

This is not the only example of the press searching for a story when there simply wasn't one - Chris Jefferies - Joanna Yeates' landlord,  was branded a murderer when he was only being questioned. He was never charged or brought to trial but the media thought they had found their killer and went to town on a story that simply wasn't true. 

The McCann's and Jefferies both fought back - winning substantial damages. However the money cannot reverse the damage done by the media. 

Can journalists no longer be trusted to do their job without regulation? 

 

Comments

That there should be some sort (of either the self- or statutory kind) seems generally agreed.

What do we make of this suggestion by Geoffrey Roberston (of 'Robertson and Nicol' fame, 2nd year students of media law):

"Leveson could simply recommend that the existing PCC code of conduct be given statutory force, so that any victim could sue for damages—leaving the press to be hoist, if necessary, by its own petard"?

My first instinct is that it would require a load of statutory guidance for judges around it, going against the seemingly simplistic nature of the idea.

It was just absolutely gut wrenching to be reminded of the hell that these two parents had experienced, both sitting today at the inquiry. The loss of their daughter to a want-to-be desperate mother, we hope; or worse, a peadophile ring, is impossible to contemplate.

Today I watched two dignified people, giving evidence for the first time publicly, about how the Press Pack, not only hounded, but completely ransacked the last piece of human dignity they had by accusing them of killing their abducted daughter: "they said we kept her body in our freezer" Mrs Mcann had explained to the hearing.

Who was these journalists, these human beings, who wrote those lies based on no evidence, no public interest, and no empathy? The Red Tops went for their jugular, literally making up stories, selling the public lies about the murder of a child by honing in to our heart felt sympathy, our humanity: Where was theirs?

The Leveson inquiry really hit home today. A poignant example of just how deplorable the British Tabloids have become and Lord Leveson has in his hands the opportunity to remedy this.

There must be put in place, constitutionally, a code of practice, punishable by law, not a further extension of the PCC's ability to shelter its own board of editors from flagrant conduct which brought the industry into disrepute. It is unsettling to think that if the phone hacking scandal had been successfully covered up by those in power, the McCanns treatment by the tabloids would have settled down nicely, forgotten about on the pages of history.

I believe there must be a period of State regulation, where the government can put right, under constitutional law, the savage practices of the Tabloid Press. Without a root and branch reformation of the Press industry, Leveson's examination means nothing, and power will just be returned to those, the unelected.

We are certainly seeing evidence that some journalists on some popular tabloid newspapers behaved abysmally in circumstances in which a public interest justification is hard to imagine. That was wrong. It must be punished and the Leveson Inquiry is part of that process. But this was not 'the press.' The Guardian, Times, Independent, FT, Daily Telegraph, Kent Messenger,  etc. did not do these things. Despite repeated assertions there is, as yet, no hard evidence that the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday did them either - and we must note that Associated Newspapers emphatically denies any involvement in hacking. Broadsheet, local and regional newspapers are blameless and face being regulated for sins they did not commit. The Guardian faces regulation for a sin it exposed. The devil is in the detail. Some journalists have behaved atrociously. It is hard to find a time in the history of popualr reporting when that was not the case. Should we obstruct and burden ethical, quality reporting in order to correct the faults of a group who have been exposed and who will, in several cases, be prosecuted? Self-regulation is too valuable to squander. We must make it effective. 

The Leveson Inquiry and press ethics