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Gravesham MP calls for tougher privacy laws in wake of Leveson debate

Adam Holloway MP
Adam Holloway MP

Gravesham MP Adam Holloway has said he would strengthen privacy laws in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

The former journalist said he was “all for protecting journalism”, but said too many sections of the media were hiding behind the principle of a free press, when in reality all they were providing was “news entertainment” and not “journalism”.

Mr Holloway said he would have tackled the issue by bringing in a stronger privacy law and strengthening the public interest defence for journalism that exposed wrongdoing.

Speaking to the after the three main parties agreed on a royal charter to regulate the press, he said: “A lot of what is called journalism is really news entertainment.

“People like yourselves are businesses first and foremost; you’re in the business of selling newspapers.

“In an incredibly competitive market the drive towards providing entertainment as opposed to journalism is a very strong factor.”

The charter will establish an independent regulator with the power to impose fines of £1 million on publishers and demand apologies from them.

A royal charter is a formal document used to establish and lay out the terms of an organisation, such as charities or professional bodies.

It has been proposed as a result of the Leveson Inquiry into the practices and ethics of the press.

Many sections of the media have warned that any law establishing regulation would impinge on press freedom and should be avoided at all costs.

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson welcomed the deal. He said: “We need to have a robust press that operates within acceptable standards of decency.”

There is some debate as to whether the new system avoids infringing press freedom.

Clauses which relate to the charter have been added to two bills currently going through Parliament, even though they have nothing to do with press regulation.

These state that the charter cannot be amended without a two-thirds majority in Parliament and newspapers that refuse to join the new regime could potentially be liable for exemplary damages if a claim is upheld against them.
Many argue that this is “statutory underpinning” and an attack on the freedom of the press.

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