Press freedom in Hong Kong

British PM to push media bosses to back press watchdog

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 4:24am

British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet editors and owners of national newspapers this week to seek their response to an inquiry into press ethics. Cameron will push for a timeframe for the establishment of a new press watchdog following proposals set out by judge Brian Leveson in a major report published on Thursday, a culture ministry spokesman said.

The meeting, tomorrow, will be hosted by the culture minister, Maria Miller, who will appeal to the group not to "drag its feet" in implementing the new regulator, the spokesman said. Cameron hopes the new body will help quash claims that a new law is needed to make it truly effective.

Cameron's government is divided on the future of the press. The Liberal Democrats, junior partners in the Conservative-led coalition, said they would join with the opposition Labour Party and support a new law.

The rift was sparked by the publication of Leveson's report which, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, proposed a new independent self-regulatory body backed by law.

Leveson proposes a beefed-up watchdog staffed by independent members, with the power to fine newspapers up to £1 million (HK$12.4 million).

While Cameron warned that legislation could threaten press freedom, his deputy, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, insisted statutory oversight was essential to guarantee the independence of the new watchdog.