The government announced this morning, via Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, that it has abandoned all plans to proceed with the promised ‘part 2’ of the Leveson inquiry into press corruption that included hacking the phone of a murdered child.
Just weeks after a landmark settlement against the press for not only phone-hacking, but stalking and harassment of police officers and their families.
Hancock told the Commons that the second part of the inquiry, which was to examine corporate malpractice and relationships between the press and the police, will not proceed:
‘Section 40‘ of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 mandated protection against excessive legal costs for media that sign up to Leveson-compliant regulation – as opposed to the self-refereeing by the media themselves that the ‘sham regulator‘ IPSO represents. It will now not proceed.
Press accountability campaigners were correctly outraged:
The Gov has just announced that they are formally closing the 2nd half of the Leveson Inquiry. It has chosen to turn a blind eye to press and police corruption at the demand of corporate press owners. Victims have been disgracefully betrayed. #Murdoch #Dacre #Leveson2NOW pic.twitter.com/8b0MCZKh8r
— Hacked Off (@hackinginquiry) March 1, 2018
But that’s not all Hancock did. He has turned the tables 180 degrees – turning an inquiry into the misdeeds of the corporate press into an intention to protect them:
But we will take action to safeguard the lifeblood of our democratic discourse and tackle the challenges our media face today, not a decade ago.
The Leveson inquiry was not set up to look into the ‘challenges our media faced a decade ago‘ – it was set up to investigate the corruption, malpractice and illegality of large parts of the press.
But Hancock now wants to ‘safeguard‘ the ‘free [corporate, establishment] press’ – a move that the Tories have already started to prepare for via numerous soundbites about the supposed ‘lifeblood of our democracy’.
And, since Theresa May has already identified the independent media as the most significant threat to the power and revenue of the corporate press, Hancock’s announcement that Leveson 2 has been binned – surprise, surprise, the one manifesto promise that the Tories have kept – was in fact an opportunity for a ‘doublespeak’-camouflaged declaration of war on the independent media.
It’s been coming for some time.
It will be up to all who value the real free press and media – and every opposition party – to defend them against the assault that is coming.
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