Legitimate journalism is at risk of being stifled by the possible impact of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards – fears the newspaper columnist and political commentator, Iain Macwhirter.
Writing in today's Herald – in an essential read – Macwhirter concedes that the inquiry has found the newspaper industry “guilty of lies, deceit, theft, stalking, phone hacking, corrupting the police, invading peoples' privacy, breaking the law with impunity on everything from the data protection acts to criminal trespass”.
But he worries if the result of the inquiry is inhibiting regulation – that may even require editors to “minute every conversation about any story that might involve breaking the rules” – on legitimate journalism.
He notes how regulation might have suffocated various stories, including by The Herald's chief reporter, Lucy Adams.
He continues: “We can't allow the delinquent behaviour of the few to become a pretext for extinguishing freedom of speech and freedom of information for the many.”
And he adds: “The danger is that legitimate investigative journalism will become almost impossible because of statutory legislation, while anything posted willy nilly on social media sites is effectively exempted from the same repressive laws.”
Earlier this week, speaking in Edinburgh, the general-secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet called for a new press regulation body that is not designed by the Press Complaints Commission, includes working journalists, involves a degree of statutory regulation, and is “independent of the state and independent of the industry”.