Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

What we don't need is more regulation of the media

It goes without saying that people shouldn't have their private phone accounts hacked into.

It is right that the forthcoming inquiry puts a stop to that and introduces swingeing financial penalties, including compensation, if a news organisation is caught commissioning that sort of activity in the future. The threat of heavy legal bills is an effective way of keeping news-gatherers in line.

The prospect of compensation encourages the public to report breaches and sue - as it does in the case of defamation.

It would also encourage phone companies to increase security, as car-manufacturers have done already.

What we don't need, though, is more regulation of the media.

Phone-hacking and the other malpractices which closed the News of the World are already illegal; it is just enforcement that has fallen down. The British and Irish media are already highly-regulated and are, arguably, the best in the world at holding the powerful to account.

Tilting the balance against investigative reporting would be dangerous to democracy.

And don't listen to American journalists saying higher standards apply across the pond.

Journalists there can write what they like about public figures, as long as they say they believed it at the time. That is the why US media so resents being sued over here, where we must be prepared to prove what we print is true.

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