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Thu Apr 24 08:04:49 SAST 2014

Cameron set to defy Leveson

© The Daily Telegraph, Reuters | 30 November, 2012 00:39
Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks leaves Westminster Magistrates Court after appearing to face charges linked to alleged corrupt payments to public officials in London
Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News International, leaves Westminster Magistrate's Court in London yesterday after appearing to face charges linked to alleged corrupt payments to public officials Picture: NEIL HALL/REUTERS
Image by: NEIL HALL / Reuters

British Prime Minister David Cameron is prepared to block Lord Justice Leveson's key recommendation of new laws to regulate newspapers over fears it could undermine freedom of speech.

Cameron said he had ''serious misgivings and concerns" about state regulation of the press after the judge yesterday said there should be new laws to set up a newspaper watchdog.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Cameron said he was ''wary" of any regulation that has ''the potential to infringe on free speech".

''We should think very very carefully about crossing this line," he told MPs.

The prime minister said a new system that ''complies with the Leveson principles should be put in place rapidly" but he did not believe laws were necessary to do so.

''The danger is this would create a vehicle for politicians to impose regulations on the press."

He said he was ''instinctively concerned" about changing data protection laws as this could ''wreck proper investigative journalism in our country".

He made clear that ''the system we have is badly broken and has let down victims badly" and said he is in favour of independent regulation. This would include a standards code, an arbitration service, the power to demand upfront, prominent apologies and to fine organisations up to £1-million.

Cameron ordered L eveson's inquiry after public outrage at revelations that reporters at one of Rupert Murdoch's tabloids hacked the phone messages of a 13-year-old murder victim, Milly Dowler.

Leveson said there should be a new independent self-regulatory body, which would be recognised in law, something the press and many within Cameron's party have adamantly opposed.

He said the relationship between politicians and the press was too close. He warned that the close ties between the government and News Corp over the aborted takeover of BSkyB had the potential to jeopardise the $12-billion bid .

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Thu Apr 24 08:04:49 SAST 2014 ::