Press regulation: freedom from intrusion vs freedom of expression

by Stephen Tall on March 22, 2013

First the (right-wing) Spectator. The the (left-wing) New Statesman. Now the (market liberal) Economist has joined the list of magazines saying that state-backed regulation of the press is something up with which they will not put. Here’s its conclusion:

it is important for any newspaper to be honest. A system where journalists police journalists will be more abusive than one run by politicians. But, in the end, society has a choice. If it values freedom from intrusion more than freedom of expression, it needs state regulation. If it regards the press as so important that freedom of expression must be protected at all costs, then it must avoid state regulation like the plague.

For us, the choice is clear: we believe society gains more from a free press than it loses from the tabloids’ occasional abuse of defenceless people. Because that view has held sway in Britain, the press has remained free of state intervention for over 300 years. Fleet Street does not have an impeccable record. It has broken the law and victimised innocent people. But it has also, time and again, exposed the lies and incompetence of politicians. Now a late-night deal between politicians could give politicians power over it. Fortunately, their proposal is such a mess that it looks as though it may fall apart.


The problem is that this desire for freedom of expression is being constantly framed as a bulwark against politicians limiting what the press can print about them. Defenders of freedom of speech and freedom of expression look at the press as victims in this. Whereas it is actually people like Lucy Meadows who are the victims. If a state, a state with liberal values, cannot see a way of protecting innocent people (not the sainted ‘innocent free press’) then it has failed to be a liberal state.

Why are the freedoms of the individual being sacrificed? Why is the press seen as a something more important? Why is it that an individual must seek restitution for a wrong being committed by the press rather than the state protecting the freedom of the individual and giving the press far greater pause for thought when attacking innocent people for no reason other than profit?

by Douglas McLellan on March 22, 2013 at 3:28 pm. Reply #

[…] as this week’s Economist points out the debate over press regulation is essentially a battle between two concepts of freedom: freedom […]

by Liberal Hero of the Week #32: Index on Censorship & Jonathan Dimbleby. (The Villains are Cameron, Clegg and Miliband) | CentreForum Blog on March 22, 2013 at 8:43 pm. Reply #

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