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Cameron vows veto of press regulator bill

Nov. 30, 2012 at 10:01 AM

LONDON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- A faction of Britain's coalition government is drafting legislation to prove that a recommended media watchdog is a bad idea, the culture secretary said.

Maria Miller said offering a preview of a possible law may help change minds within the Liberal Democrat and Labor parties about accepting the proposals of Lord Justice Brian Henry Leveson following his inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the media, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

In interviews after release of Leveson's report, Miller said a new law that would establish a press watchdog ultimately could bar newspapers from properly reporting on Parliament and holding politicians accountable.

"It provides a legislative framework for government to put in place things that impinge on press freedom, for example the way the press reports Parliament," she said. "They can put in a subtle muzzle of the press. Legislative underpinning is not necessary to achieve the same objective, which is an independent legislative body that gives real justice to victims."

Leveson's inquiry -- culminating in Thursday's report -- began during the initial fallout of a phone-hacking scandal that closed the News of the World, led to the arrest of several of the publication's top editors and the questioning of numerous journalists and public officials.

Miller said new proposals would be drafted soon after Prime Minister David Cameron announced he opposed the having the state intervene in a free press.

Miller warned the government would take "further action" if the media doesn't offer any better proposals for a regulatory process, including draft legislation, the Telegraph reported.

Cameron threatened to veto the central recommendation, a new independent media regulator that was backed by legislation.

The findings of Leveson's inquiry were backed by Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, and Ed Miliband, Labor Party and opposition leader, who are now expected to unite to try to push through new press laws.

Among its recommendations, the report said the independent regulator would have the power to fine newspapers up to 1 million pounds (about $1.6 million) or 1 percent of turnover for violating a new code of conduct. The proposed regulatory system would be bolstered by statute to "protect the freedom of the press, to reassure the public and validate the new body," the report said.

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