UK Politicians Offer An Awful Bargain: Give Up Free Press If You Want Defamation Reform
from the free-expression-shouldn't-be-horse-traded dept
Of course, fixing the problem has been a long and ongoing process as well, with various defamation reform packages proposed, but never getting anywhere. It had looked like the latest proposal might finally have a chance of passing... but that may now be scuttled due to a different controversial idea that has been attached to the bill.
As you may recall, after the News Corp. phone hacking scandal, the UK set up a commission on "media ethics" to explore issues related to preventing such scandals from happening again, and tragically, the recommendations included heavy regulation for the press. The rules go way overboard if you believe in freedom of the press, and really seem more designed to prevent rich and famous people from being embarrassed by the press, rather than stop egregious ethics violations.
So, here's the problem. The defamation reform package was moving forward nicely, when some politicians decided to basically lump a "Leveson Amendment" onto the bill, so that the UK is now faced with an unfortunate tradeoff. They could fix the broken defamation laws, but would have to do so at the cost of giving up basic press freedoms. It's unfortunate that UK politicians, apparently led by David Puttnam, have put others in the position of having to make that kind of ridiculous tradeoff. A functioning democracy that believes in free expression should support both a very limited defamation law and protections for a free press. Asking people to trade one for the other is really quite a travesty.