The Leveson Inquiry, the UK Press, the current government’s response and Women

A guest post by Jennifer Hornsby.

[For more information on the Leveson report, go here.]

The report of Lord Leveson, who conducted an Enquiry into the Culture,
Practice and Ethics of the Press, was published on Thursday 29th
November. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has announced his
reluctance to implement the report’s principal recommendation – that
there should be legally backed regulation, independent of politicians
and press, to hold the press to account. A majority of M.P.s, however,
endorse that recommendation. And victims of press abuses want all of
Leveson’s recommendations implemented. At the time I write, over 50,000
people (and the number is growing apace) have signed a petition in
support of the victims.

These victims are individuals who have suffered lying, intimidation,
intrusion. Leveson was concerned not only with individuals, but also
with classes of people who suffer at the hands of the press. In the
regular press coverage of the report and of the ensuing debate, no
mention is made of the fact that Leveson took evidence from (among
others) representatives of women, and this evidence led to a

In his report, Leveson exposes the gross incompetence of the Press
Complaints Commission, tasked to ensure that the Editors’ Code of
Practice is enforced. The Commission proved itself to be aligned with,
and a champion of, the interests of the press; and it made no attempt to
monitor press compliance with the Code. It operated a complaints system
which normally required an individual complainant who was individually
affected by a story, so that complaints made on behalf of a class of
people was not ordinarily admissible. The Code (as opposed to those
supposed to enforce it) was not Leveson’s target. Under the head of
‘accuracy’, the Code has it that ‘the press must take care not to
publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including
pictures’. Under the head of ‘discrimination’, it has (i) The press must
avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race,
colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any form of physical
or mental illness or disability. (ii) Details of an individual’s race,
colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or
disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.’
Leveson gives an account of the evidence he heard from (among others)
EAVES, End Violence Against Women, Object. His account makes it clear
that the Editors’ Code has regularly been violated to women’s detriment.
(Leveson refrains from judging exactly how regularly.)
Leveson speaks of certain newspapers as failing to show “consistent
respect for the dignity and equality of women”, and he speaks of their
“tendency to sexualize and demean women”. He says that a new independent
regulator should have “the power to take complaints from representative
women’s groups”.

Women’s concerns are taken up in Volume 2 of the Report (the whole
Report is a million words long!). Anyone interested might want to search
for ‘women’ within the document.

3 thoughts on “The Leveson Inquiry, the UK Press, the current government’s response and Women

  1. My I recommend that you have a read of the Human Rights Blog article:
    Mail finds new love for Human Rights Act

    This issue is far too important for emotional, hysterical or party political responses. The Human Rights Act is at the centre of this problem (right to privacy and right to freedom of expression). We all want to solve this problem, but let’s do so rationally. For those of you who cannot bring themselves to read relevant parts of the Leveson’s (4 volumes) Report, I recommend that you at least read LIBERTY RESPONDS TO LEVESON REPORT (3 pages). Liberty states:
    “Any possible alternative of compulsory regulation, either for all newspapers or those who will not join the voluntary scheme, would amount to state regulation of the press and in our view be dangerous for free speech and democracy.”

    If we support Clegg’s position we risk giving Cameron an easy way to (later) claim that public opinion forced him to get rid of the HRA. I find it strange that although the Lib Dem Party supporter the HRA, Clegg has suddenly adopted a diluted position. By asserting his support for Labour (and campaign groups) Clegg has asserted a position which (if implemented) would breach part of the HRA. Although I also find it strange that Cameron asserts a position which seeks to protect part of the HRA. Perhaps they tossed a coin! We have to keep in mind that If an independent body is set up, it cannot be funded by government or the press, if it is going to be truly independent. Before we all start campaigning, let’s consider the long term consequences. We have to ask WHO WILL FUND THIS INDEPENDENT BODY?

    The implication of signing this petition is that you are against the Human Rights Act and in favour of the ‘SNOOPERS CHARTER’? Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. Once the ‘SNOOPERS CHARTER’ is introduced and Article 8 is removed, the authorities will have (open) access to all your emails, phone calls and texts. Signing this petition also supports the assumption that you are in favour of the abolition of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” If Article 10 is removed, your opinions (and petitions) will be policed and limited by law.

  2. I agree with Shami Chakrabarti’s recent statement on Leveson:
    “Law and regulation is a complex area at the best of times and clarity is difficult when emotions run as high as they inevitably do on the vital issues of precious press freedom on the one hand and abuse of power and violations of privacy on the other.”
    Continue reading this clarification at:

  3. A fantastic guest post!

    I just wanted to know what you think of Kate McCann’s comment in the recent Hacked off press conference?

    ‘I welcome Lord Justice Leveson’s report and hope it will mark the start of a new era for our Press in which it treats those in the news responsibly, with care and consideration.’

    She is now on board with the Dowler family attempting to seek justice and a change in the press.

    I would really appreciate it if you could check out my blog and possibly share your views on the Leveson Case!

    Saby from Ethical Angles

Comments are closed.