Hacked Off drafts press regulation bill

Jan. 8, 2013 at 1:59 AM
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LONDON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Hacked Off, a pressure group trying to curb abuses by the British press, released its own bill for self-regulation in the news media Monday.

The group said it has followed the recommendations of the Leveson Commission, the Financial Times reported. The panel, headed by Lord Justice Brian Leveson, held extensive hearings last year on phone hacking and other invasions of privacy.

"The right thing to do now is to implement the judge's recommendations on press regulation in full and without delay," said Brian Cathcart, the journalism professor who heads Hacked Off. "There are other schemes and ideas in the air, including other draft bills and a proposal for a royal charter. None of these complies with the Leveson report and all are likely to water down or distort his proposals."

Cathcart, in an opinion piece Sunday in The Guardian, said the government cannot be trusted to regulate the news media. He said the Hacked Off bill would make freedom of the press part of British law while setting up standards a voluntary regulatory body would have to meet.

The government of Prime Minister David Cameron has drafted its own bill but has no released it. It would include setting up a regulatory body with a royal charter like the one the BBC has.

There have been reports for years of reporters or private detectives employed by newspapers listening in on celebrities or members of the royal family or hacking into their voicemail. The scandal exploded in 2011 when The Guardian reported the News of the World, a venerable Sunday tabloid, in 2002 hacked the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered.

In the wake of the scandal, Rupert Murdoch closed the newspaper and the Leveson panel was set up.

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