If Parliament votes on the press, the press is not free

If Parliament votes on the press, the press isn’t free. To split hairs between statutory underpinning and statutory regulation is not an acceptable distinction in a free and democratic country.

However, Lord Leveson is absolutely right to recognise that the current legal framework fails to protect privacy by not including the potential for those who steal or abuse personal data to face a jail sentence. His voice, added to those of campaign groups and the Home Affairs and Justice committees of Parliament sends a clear message to the Government that continued delay and inaction on this issue is unacceptable. Custodial sentences, already on the statute book, should be enacted immediately.

The media must abide by the law, of course, but it must also be fearless in holding power to account. Even a slight diminishing of its undaunted view of power will bring comfort to those who seek to evade and avoid scrutiny. Every citizen would be worse off and we would be held up in lesser regimes around the world as justification for Governments muzzling the press.