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Press & publishing  |  Special report: media law  |  Special report: press and privacy


Watchdog responds to call for privacy law

Julia Day
Monday June 16, 2003

Press complaints commission chairman Sir Chistopher Meyer today said the regulator was a "first rate" defender of "freedom of speech, the lifeblood of democracy", following the call by MPs for a privacy law to curb media intrusion.

Although Sir Christopher admitted the PCC was "not perfect" he said it was not obliged to accept anything the culture, media and sport select committee report had recommended.

The committee's report, published today, said the enshrinement into English law of the Human Rights Act had effectively "sown the seed" of privacy legislation and said the situation was in such a mess that legally binding remedies were needed.

It recommended a series of measures to safeguard privacy, including fines for offending newspapers, an annual new league table of newspapers showing how well-behaved each title has been, and front page apologies.

But Sir Christopher immediately mounted a robust defence of the PCC, saying recent court cases, including the Catherine Zeta-Jones v Hello trial, repeatedly recognised that privacy and the press was a matter for the PCC.

"I welcome the fact that the select committee recognises that overall standards of press behaviour, the code and the performance of the PCC have improved over the last decade," said Sir Christopher.

"The PCC is not perfect. But it works better through 'self-regulation plus' - a commission in which tough-minded lay members outnumber editors - than any alternative on offer."

He continued: "My colleagues and I will of course read what the select committee has had to say in detail. It is important to remember, however, that as an independent body - independent from newspapers, politicians, lawyers and any other interest group - the PCC is not obliged to accept any of them."

Sir Christopher said that the PCC was committed to serving the British public with a "first class, free fast and fair" service and to raising the standard of press reporting.

"Behind these commitments is a deeper one: to freedom of speech, the lifeblood of democracy," he added.

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 Comment and analysis
16.06.2003: Roy Greenslade: Hot, cross bun fight
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 Guy Black interview
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 Privacy rulings
13.02.2003: Watchdog raps People over Goodyear photos
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