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Clarity urged over review on Northern Ireland journalism

By Staff Reporter

There were calls yesterday for the Government to offer more detail about a proposed review of journalistic practices in Northern Ireland.

The Society of Editors and National Union of Journalists (NUJ) asked for greater clarity on the surprise announcement made by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock during a Commons debate on Wednesday.

An amendment to the Data Protection Bill would bring a review of "the processing of personal data for the purposes of journalism".

This would be carried out in Northern Ireland by a commissioner who would submit their report to the Secretary of State.

Welcoming the move, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley described the inquiry as "Leveson for Northern Ireland".

Reacting to the announcement, executive director of the Society of Editors Ian Murray said: "The Press and media should never be afraid to be subject to scrutiny which, after all, is what we expect from other bodies.

"But there is a need for clarity over the breadth and scope of the standards inquiry announced by the Secretary of State.

"I feel certain the Press in Northern Ireland would be willing to provide input into the shape of such an inquiry to help ensure it addresses many of the real issues that are faced by industry."

Assistant general secretary of the NUJ Seamus Dooley said the union would be seeking full consultation on the terms of reference of the proposed inquiry. He said: "We are surprised that a specific review of the Press in Northern Ireland has been announced.

"The confused manner of the announcement suggests that the proposal has not been properly thought out and may be motivated by political expediency.

"We are seeking urgent engagement on the terms of reference for the review."

Mr Dooley said that he hoped that any review relating to Northern Ireland would be "imaginative and wide-ranging" and include wider challenges facing journalism.

During the debate, the Government - backed by the DUP - narrowly voted down attempts to establish a new inquiry into relations between the media and police, which had been dubbed "Levenson Two".

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