Media

David Cameron's decision to end cross party talks to push forward Royal Charter proposal "cynical political opportunism" claims NUJ

By Stephen Lepitak | -

March 15, 2013 | 4 min read

The NUJ has described Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to end cross-party talks in the build-up to a vote on press regulation as “cynical political opportunism” which is likely to see parliament presented with a “half-baked” proposal for a Royal Charter to be introduced to aid governing UK press.

Last night, a statement issued by Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ criticised media owners and editors who were against the independent regulatory system suggested by Lord Justice Leveson in his report, suggesting that they “have so lost perspective in the collective hysteria” and claiming that they had “colluded” in the promotion of a Royal Charter that could allow future political “meddling”.

"Such is Cameron's desire to please his friends and potential press allies at a time when his political currency is low, that he is foisting a decision on parliament that, if passed, could create a system of regulation that doesn't create the genuinely independent, robust and responsible framework that's badly needed,” added Stanistreet. “It's a cynical move, coming after the clear cracks and differences amongst publishers that emerged this week – when it's become apparent to the editors of the Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times that actually, some sort of statutory underpinning would be preferable to a Royal Charter model and would not constitute the attack on press freedom that some of their peers in the industry would have us believe."

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Stanistreet continued to claim that there has been a “lack of transparency” in negotiations since the Leveson report had been published, stating that the NUJ believed that discussions had been held behind closed doors which had led to claims of a “stitch up” by those not involved.

“Despite clear recommendations that the new regulator and its code committee should not be limited solely to editors and should include journalists and more members of the public, the publishers have lobbied hard to ensure only they and editors are represented on the new body. The move on exemplary damages is to be welcomed, but there is a lack of clarity about how this will be implemented.

“Members of parliament now have the opportunity to express their support for a genuinely free press, one that is responsible and not a deal that is an unworkable fudge. This is an opportunity to create a system that is accountable and inclusive – critically, involving journalists and the broader public in a co-regulatory body,” she concluded.

Despite Cameron’s decision to end talks, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has continued talks with Labour leader Ed Miliband in an effort to gain support ahead of the vote taking place on Monday.

Pressure group Hacked Off, which has included many of those who were victims of phone hacking by the press, described Cameron’s decision as “a shameless betrayal” of those victims.

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