Thursday, 28 February 2013

Reportage: Neil Wallis, a bulwark against Leveson

Former editor of the Sunday People, Neil Wallis, said yesterday that the “statutory underpinning” of press regulation suggested by Lord Justice Leveson is nothing short of “state regulation.” He added that a regulated free press “is an oxymoron.”

During a talk at Leeds Trinity University Journalism Week, Mr Wallis, 60, said that if the government go ahead with Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations, “it will end 375 years of press freedom.” He added that MPs are the last group of people who should be allowed to regulate on press freedom. He said: ”Believing that MPs can control the press is like believing in Santa.”

Mr Wallis said that Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations for data protection will make investigative journalism impossible. He said that the Information Commissioner's Office would essentially become a regulator of the press, adding that it would make it impossible to protect sources from the police and other interested parties.

He said, the fact the “more journalists are on remand or bail in this country than in Iran” is proof that there is already a sufficient legal framework in place.

Neil Wallis
In an exclusive interview, Mr Wallis also struck out at Lords who seek to “sabotage” the forthcoming Defamation bill currently being debated. He said: “If the Defamation Act comes in, as drafted by the government, it will be brilliant. If the Defamation Act as sabotaged by an unholy alliance of unelected Lords from the Liberal and Labour party gets in, it will be a disaster for journalism.”

Mr Wallis said that a free press is vital in a healthy democracy because “it holds to account the state, the government and the establishment.” He added: “Free press is about the ability of newspapers to investigate what they want.”

He urged journalists to rally against the Hacked Off campaign which he believes is “funded by self-serving celebrities” who are looking to protect their own interests.

Neil Wallis' talk at Leeds Trinity University Journalism Week, yesterday.

Sunday People.

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