STRATFORD-on-Avon's MP, Nadhim Zahawi, is leading the charge for an independent and statutory system of press regulation.
Alongside George Eustice, Mr Zahawi was one of two MPs who instigated a letter to The Guardian last Friday - signed by more than 40 Conservative MPs and peers - rejecting self-regulation of the press.
The MP also appeared as a spokesperson for the campaign on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Zahawi admitted his initial “gut instinct was to oppose statutory regulation.”
“I was born in a country, [Iraq], where every media outlet existed to glorify the regime, no British politician is more grateful for a free press than I.
“But having heard the evidence, it’s clear to me that the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] lacked either the impartiality or the clout to uphold a professional code of ethics.”
The evidence-gathering phase of the ongoing Leveson Inquiry into press standards has now finished, and the Report of the Inquiry is currently being prepared.
At this point, Stratford’s MP is leading the call that a change in the law is needed.
“Many have argued that a change in the law is unnecessary because the worst abuses clearly breached existing laws. Aside from the obvious objection that existing laws were plainly not a deterrent, this line of thinking throws up two problems.
“The first is that one of the main points of having a press regulator is to help resolve disputes before they make it to court. Celebrities are big enough to look after themselves, but not everyone has the legal muscle to sue a multimillion-pound company for defamation or breach of privacy. Many would much prefer a printed apology or right of reply to a long and costly legal battle.”
He added: “The second problem with an appeal to the courts is that sometimes newspapers might be justified in breaking the law: take the Telegraph’s purchase of the stolen MPs’ expenses CD. And it’s not hard to imagine an instance of phone-hacking which would have been in the public interest. What if Jimmy Savile’s phone had been hacked?”
Mr Zahawi believes a statutory regulator, focussing on mediation, will not put a stranglehold on the free press, but will instead help journalism flourish.
“If we focus solely on court solutions to the abuses uncovered by Leveson this sets a dangerous precedent.
“In the future, unscrupulous elites might be tempted to use the privacy laws invoked against phone-hacking to threaten legitimate investigative journalism.”
However, many in the newspaper industry disagree.
Worried about the threat to this country’s free press, the industry has proposed the formation of a new body to replace the PCC with the power to launch investigations and levy fines of up to £1m. This would preserve self-regulation in the press.
And in response on Friday The Telegraph said it is worried that “once a press law is on the Statute Book, politicians will find the temptation to ratchet it up impossible to resist.”
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