Sir Alan Moses starts work this morning as chairman of the new Independent Press Standards Organisation IPSO and promises that it will not be “a sham.” Indeed it is not a sham: it is a political quango set up in response to campaigns by Hacked Off and Guardian journalists to abolish our free press. This must not be allowed to happen. The health of the nation depends upon the freedom of the press. Even that old Puritan John Milton understood this and argued vigorously in its defence in his 1644 speech, later printed as Areopagitica. Muzzling the press is the first act of all tyrannies. Just reflect on states such as the USSR under Stalin, Germany under Hitler and China ruled by Mao and his successors. Look at any dictatorship you fancy and ask yourself whether you would prefer to live there or here in Britain, with all its faults.
Newspapers are a pretty untidy business and actually their methods of news-gathering are often despicable. But not as despicable as the methods of all governments which control the mass media. These governments are thereby enabled to hide their own misdeeds and criminalise public scrutiny. The freedom of the press is what guarantees our liberty – or at least some measure of freedom. The free press can hold governments to account and this is ever more necessary given our current debased and corrupt political class.
There should be absolutely no regulation of the press. This does not mean that the papers and the broadcasters can do as they like. They must be subject to the law of the land as everyone else is so subject. If I break into your house, or even if by my words and writings slander you or libel you, then I have committed an offence and for which I can be arraigned. The same goes for journalists, newspapers and television companies.
There are enough laws and we don’t need further regulation. Control always works in favour of authority. Yes, and the basis of all authority is freedom.