EU Proposal to Monitor “Intolerant” Citizens
For the complete story see Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4036/eu-intolerant-citizens … EU to monitor ‘intolerant’ citizens. Get ready for the Stazi thought police to come knocking on your door.
by Soeren Kern
October 28, 2013 at 5:00 am
“There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant” — European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance, Article 4
Political Correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred!
“The supra-national surveillance that it would imply would certainly be a dark day for European democracy.” — European Dignity Watch
While European leaders are busy expressing public indignation over reports of American espionage operations in the European Union, the European Parliament is quietly considering a proposal that calls for the direct surveillance of any EU citizen suspected of being “intolerant.”
Critics say the measure — which seeks to force the national governments of all 28 EU member states to establish “special administrative units” to monitor any individual or group expressing views that the self-appointed guardians of European multiculturalism deem to be “intolerant” — represents an unparalleled threat to free speech in a Europe where citizens are already regularly punished for expressing the “wrong” opinions, especially about Islam.
The proposed European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance was recently presented to members of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, the only directly-elected body of the European Union.
The EU, Political Correctness and Free Speech
Who are ‘Hacked Off’ scroll down to see Andrew Gilligan’s expose of them and the EU
There is great pressure from the political elite to gain control of the press. Many MPs and ex-MPs are still seething with anger at their false expenses being exposed to the public gaze. Even more so the European Commission.
Regulatory bodies have an uncontrollable desire to indulge in Regulation Creep. Under no circumstances should any of the political elite have control of the press either directly or indirectly by arranging for their chums to do so.
A most suitable Regulatory body should be made up of randomly selected people from the Jury List. Twenty would be a good number and 5 replaced each year. Someone considered wise enough to decide in the guilt of a murderer should be more than wise enough to regulate the press – far more so than many political elite.
EU opinion “I have never understood why public opinion about European ideas should be taken into account.” Raymond Barre, former French Prime Minister.
The Spanish Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice has claimed that “Criticism of the EU is akin to blasphemy and could be restricted without affecting Freedom of Speech”
Ever since 1215 and the Magna Carta we British have seen an accumulation of individual rights and institutions free from direct government control.
Our Free Speech has been prized for generations.
A few such independent Institutions were;
The Law Courts Local elected councils
The Police Civil Service
The Media Education and Universities
The BBC The Health and Safety Service
While they had to obey the laws of the land they were a ‘shield for the common man’ against any abuse of power by the government. Blair set about politicising our independent institutions. Their independence has been steadily chipped away by the promotion within of the ‘Politically Correct’ to positions of control and the removal of those who are not. They are fast becoming full-blown agents of the government against us – the public.
From the end of WWll there has been a steady erosion of our individual rights. This has been accompanied by an increase in control by the government, and their unaccountable bureaucracy, over individuals, institutions and our elected representatives. Free Speech is being suppressed by the use of Political Correctness. This trend has been accelerating very rapidly since 1997.
So just what is going on?
What is Political Correctness? It is a control technique of the Frankfurt School of Marxism used by the Political Elite, of all parties, and their cohorts. They unilaterally make up rules of behaviour and speech with which to browbeat the public and impose their undemocratic authority. It is used to stop dissent or criticism by the public of their misbehaviour, malfeasance, unaccountability and especially for the side-stepping of the democratic process.
The Frankfurt School started in the 1920s by a number of ‘Intellectuals’ who were strongly influenced by Karl Marx’s proposed new political system. It was Lenin’s version they preferred where political control would be the exclusive right of favoured Academics, Intellectuals the Political Elite with the lumpen plebs excluded. They felt they were entitled to rule, as of a right, and not have to grovel to the lumpen public in order to get elected into, or stay in, government. They were very similar to the Fabian Society formed in Britain in 1884. It was their opinion that the ‘working class’ were far too stupid to be involved in any form of government. Their heirs of 2011 – the Elite Politique of the European Union and most of those in the UK political parties – are of the same opinion.
Their road to control is not by the Trotsky style of violent revolution but to circumvent the democratic process by infiltrating the institutions of society such as Education, Local Authorities, Media, the Churches, Law etc to degrade the existing democratic social structure. A UK body, ‘Common Purpose’, has been set up to train compliant bureaucrats, (Nomenklatura or Nomniks) to quietly execute their edicts. People who ‘show promise’ are sent on a Common Purpose course at public expense. There they are taught how to circumvent the democratic process in public and private organisations. So long as they stay ‘on message’ they have gold plated jobs with over-generous salaries, pensions, perks (aka civic bribes) and no accountability to the public they are supposed to serve. To achieve their aims in the UK it is necessary to demolish the traditional freedoms of the individual fought for and established over many hundreds of years.
The balance between State Control and Individual Freedom has shifted dramatically in favour of the State. This is not the aim of a particular political party. The Elites running the main parties are all of the same opinion and most can swap around between the parties without any noticeable difference.
The European Union is their most successful achievement so far. It is controlled by ‘a higher authority free from any control by elected politicians’. That is the unelected European Commission. The elected European Parliament is essentially toothless and little more than a ‘rubber stamp’ for the Commission.
The EU now has the structure of a police state.
Section 44 of the 2000 Terrorism Act is used by the police to suppress non violent demonstrations and Free Speech by members of the public who cannot by any definition be described as Terrorists. Such as the lady who was reading out the names of fallen soldiers at the Cenotaph.
The Serious Organised Crimes Act is used in more or less the same way as Section 44. Typically by some Councils to snoop on you to see if your dustbin has been put out on the ‘wrong’ day and so whack you with a hefty fine.
The Libel Laws and ‘gagging orders’ are being used to protect the excesses of the Political Elite and their chums. Just the threat of legal action will stop all but the exceptionally rich or penniless. If what you say is absolutely true you cannot risk the legal costs – even if you win. The latest are the super injunctions.
European Press Cards (EPC) are to be issued only to journalists ‘approved’ by the unelected European Commission. They will then control who can and cannot be a journalist and thus be able to control the reporting of what is really going on in the EU. The EU currently spends over €8 million a year ‘entertaining and training’ journalists to ensure they are ‘on message’. Why on earth does a journalist experienced enough to be sent to Brussels need ‘training’?
Aiden White, Gen Sec of the International Federation of Journalists received a 16 page document from Alessandro Buttice, the EU lawyer representing OLAF telling journalists how they should and should not report EU news.
Following protests the EPC has been withdrawn. However we can rest assured that while it has been withdrawn from the public domain it is sitting quietly on the back burner. Perhaps it will soon be made available on a voluntary basis only. In time if you do not have an EPC the journalist will not be informed of Press Conferences. Later if he does not have an EPC he will not be allowed into press conferences (probably due to lack of space). Eventually he will not be able to perform as a journalist in Europe without a ‘voluntary’ EPC.
It has been stated by the Spanish Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice that “Criticism of the EU is akin to blasphemy and could be restricted without affecting Freedom of Speech”
BBC bias. The BBC’s Royal Charter requires it to be politically neutral. Clearly they are not and have now openly admitted as such but are quite unrepentant. BBC executives consider all those who disagree with their form of Frankfurt Socialism to be ‘Extremists’. There does not seem to be a formal policy to be biased. It is the result of disproportionally recruiting left wing candidates from the Guardian, the Oxbridge Broadcasting Societies and Common Purpose. They are usually given preferential promotion over those who are more moderate and balanced.
The BBC has effectively been hijacked by the Frankfurt School of Socialist Ideology and is now run almost as a private fiefdom.
Loss of investigative reporters. The new business plan of many publications is to ‘cut, paste and churn’ existing news items from the Internet and Publicity Depts. They can then employ cheap screen minders instead of ‘proper journalists who waste too much time investigating the whole story’.
Europol, the European Union Police Force, has the legal right to arrest you without evidence. They can hold you in custody for an unlimited period without charge or even telling you why you have been arrested. The EuroGendarmerie is a clone of the French CRS (their paramilitary police force) who have established an unenviable reputation for the brutal manner with which they suppress civil demonstrations. The UK eqivalent is the Territorial Support Group. Not yet as brutal as the CRS but they certainly have the potential. Their remit is to eventually intimidate the citizenry and to protect the political elite from their anger and frustration .
Threats to Journalists. The European Commission are trying to have legal access to all journalists’ sources of information and accumulated data. (2012-033)
The EU also wishes to have complete control of the Internet in Europe.
There is now a trend to try and shift liability for what is published from the publisher to the journalists who do not have their legal backup.
Threats to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The success of this Act in exposing what the Political Elite want kept confidential is a cause of considerable alarm. They are very anxious to price it out of reach of all but the very rich and very persistent. The government frequently moves its activities to Quangos and ‘Authorities’ who are exempt from the FOIA.
The Internet is the greatest phenomenon ever to empower the public and allow our uncensored opinions to be broadcast worldwide. Because of this there are calls to ‘regulate’ (censor) the Internet by governments alarmed at this new people power.
Wikileaks is perhaps the most notorious example of free speech. Its primary crime is to be the cause of many official Red Faces. However there seems to be as well a number of very sensitive exposures that may put some people at serious risk. Because of this it is very urgent to consider what should be exposed to public gaze and what should not.
This begs the question – Who should decide what can be put in the public domain, who should appoint them and what will be their remit? The political class have demonstrated time and again that we can no longer trust them.
The MPs expenses is the obvious example where the government decided to put all expenses in the public domain. But only after the MPs had been allowed to delete any that they wished to kept from the public gaze.
There are, of course, many warts on the internet but most are fairly harmless. We can expect subjects such as paedophilia to be exploited and used by ‘them’ as an excuse to grab control of the Internet to censor in their own interests.
The Internet is the greatest phenomenon ever to empower the public and allow our uncensored opinions to be broadcast worldwide. Because of this there are calls to ‘regulate’ (censor) the Internet by governments alarmed at this new people power.
Whistle Blowers such as Marta Andressen, who exposed the financial frauds within the EU, was sacked by Neil Kinnock for doing so. Those who leaked the MPs expenses are under threat. However the greater crime by far is informing the public – not those of the fraudster. They are heroes of our times.
Mick Greenhough 2010
A director of Hacked Off, the campaign against the “lies” of the press, gave false evidence under oath to the Leveson Inquiry, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
Will Moy, the head of Full Fact, a “non-partisan” group campaigning against “inaccuracy in the media”, told Lord Justice Leveson that his organisation was “constituted as a charity, and in the process of registering as a charity” and as such operated “under a statutory public benefit obligation”.
Impressed, the judge drew extensively on Full Fact’s evidence in his report, describing it as politically “independent”, its work as “extremely important”, and saying: “I am pleased to recognise that Full Fact can claim to be one of the organisations that does seek to ‘guard the guardians’.”
He said its submissions went to the “very core of what I’ve had to consider”.
In fact, in July 2011, seven months before Mr Moy testified, Full Fact had been refused registration as a charity after another judge heard that it lacked the “requisite objectivity” and was not “established for the public benefit”.
The ruling was the culmination of a two-year fight between Full Fact and the Charity Commission, which denied it charitable status, saying it was too political.
Mr Moy, 29, is named as one of Hacked Off’s “board of directors” on its press releases and is one of two directors in Hacked Off’s Companies House filings, alongside Hugh Grant, the actor.
Full Fact specialises in what it calls “promoting the facts for their own sake, without an ulterior motive” and exposing journalists who it says are “playing tricks with the truth”.
It says that the media’s “inaccuracy” proves that the press must “be subject to additional constraints”.
It conducts frequent “fact-checks” of suspect newspaper items and regularly complains to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about stories it dislikes, saying that some newspapers are like “a water company putting poison in the water supply”.
Peter Lilley, the Conservative MP and former cabinet minister, who opposes state-backed press regulation, said: “It’s a bit sanctimonious for a group which criticises the press for not being accurate to be itself somewhat economical with the truth.
“They do not seem to hold themselves to the standards they demand for others. Perhaps, they should campaign for a regulator requiring bodies like theirs to give accurate information.”
Full Fact insists that it is Britain’s “only independent fact-checking organisation”.
However, examination of its fact-checks shows that several have subtle Left-wing bias and 80 per cent of its complaints to the PCC have been against Right-wing newspapers. It has made five complaints against The Daily Telegraph.
Its directors at the time of the Leveson Inquiry were two Labour peers, a Liberal Democrat peer, and a Labour-supporting journalist, as well as a man who gave money to the Conservative Party in 2009.
During last year’s mayoral election, Full Fact endorsed a number of demonstrably false claims by the Labour candidate, Ken Livingstone, including his key campaign message that his proposed 7 per cent transport fare cut would “save Londoners on average £1,000 over four years”. Full Fact described this claim as “sound and well-sourced”.
In fact, as both Mr Livingstone and the capital’s transport authority, TfL, agreed, the fares cut would sacrifice £270 million of revenue each year, or £1.1 billion over four years. Divided by 7.5 million Londoners this made an average saving over the period of just £149, little more than a tenth of Mr Livingstone’s claim.
Even if the claim applied only to Londoners who used public transport and paid fares, only a small fraction of them – commuters travelling daily from the furthest suburbs – would have saved more than £1,000.
Full Fact also endorsed a false claim by Mr Livingstone that the number of affordable homes built in London under his rival, Boris Johnson, was “very low,” with “just 56” started in a six-month period. The actual number was 2,270.
Full Fact applied for registration as a charity in 2009, but was refused by the Charity Commission, which said it was concerned that the organisation’s activities “permit a political purpose to be pursued”.
The commission also doubted whether “the requisite rigour, objectivity and capability could ever be demonstrated to a standard that removed [Full Fact] from political controversy”.
Full Fact appealed against the decision to the Charity Tribunal, but its application was dismissed in July 2011. The tribunal judge, Peter Hinchcliffe, described its claim for charitable status and its public benefit as “ambiguous and unclear”.
Mr Moy said last night: “The position we gave is correct. I don’t think we misled Lord Justice Leveson and I don’t think he will have felt misled.”
On the mayoral election, he said, Full Fact examined 10 claims each from Mr Johnson’s and Mr Livingstone’s campaigns and found that it agreed and disagreed with them on a similar numbers of times.
Mr Moy said Full Fact had not given up trying to register as a charity, but the Charity Commission said that it had received no further application from the group.
Full Fact is one of a number of bodies that have come together under the Hacked Off banner. They have won substantial influence over policymakers and Lord Justice Leveson, driving the regulation debate by claiming to be “impartial” and to be operating “on behalf of the public,” though they are, in fact, broadly partisan and entirely self-appointed.
Another such group closely linked to Hacked Off, the Media Standards Trust, has repeatedly claimed that the “failure” of press self-regulation has meant that “public trust in journalism, already low, was declining further”.
In fact, the only long-run polling of public trust in journalism, by Mori, shows the opposite — a fairly consistent, if modest, rise, little affected by the hacking scandal.
Indeed, and perhaps surprisingly, according to the Mori poll for 2013, public trust in journalism stands at the second-highest level it has known since the polling began in 1983. According to separate polling by YouGov, the biggest drop in trust in recent years has been in broadcast journalism, which has always been regulated.
The Media Standards Trust has referred to these two sets of polls in its reports, but — copying a trick or two from its tabloid enemies — omitted the findings whenever they do not serve its argument.
Hacked Off, too, has been extravagantly critical of press “deceit”.
Writing in an academic journal, Television and New Media, Prof Brian Cathcart, Hacked Off’s director, said that “the consensus has been that most journalism was about exaggeration, distortion, manipulation and dishonesty, and so to associate it with truth became in itself a dishonest act”. No evidence was given for this sweeping statement, nor any evidence that standards of press accuracy have fallen.
Prof Cathcart appears to have been less than careful with the truth on several occasions.
Defending Hacked Off against the huge backlash that followed its late-night deal to establish a state-backed press regulator, he told journalists that the deal was supported by English PEN, a well-known group defending literature and free expression.
“We were surprised about that because that doesn’t fit with what we said,” said a spokesman for English PEN, Robert Sharp. “We have certainly never given Brian Cathcart the impression that we support press regulation.” English PEN’s director, Jo Glanville, issued a statement criticising the Hacked Off deal’s “chilling effect on freedom of speech”, though she later insisted Prof Cathcart’s claim may have been a “misunderstanding”.
Prof Cathcart has also insisted that Hacked Off has been “open from the outset about our funding,” which is untrue. The group refuses to disclose its funding.
As even Prof Cathcart says, it has accepted money “from some people who do not want their donations made public”.
In his role at Hacked Off, Prof Cathcart has repeatedly used media coverage of the 2007/08 Bridgend suicides, where 17 young people killed themselves in just over a year, to attack the press and the PCC. Over Bridgend and other stories, he claimed: “Editors do what they want, and ignore or forget the lessons of past errors and misdeeds. The PCC hardly ever dares call them to account.”
In fact, as Prof Cathcart wrote at the time, “by and large those reporting the Bridgend story have conformed to the PCC’s requirements” on reporting suicide.
“Journalists are not wilfully cavalier about these things,” he said.
As you read Hacked Off’s indignant protestations that its new regulator “excludes politicians from any role” in regulating the press, it will be worth bearing in mind its members’ own less than perfect role in truth-telling.
Freedom of Speech -from ‘Brave New Europe’ para 29
There’s reputed to be a draft EU Directive that will make it a criminal offence to ‘do or say anything that’s deemed hostile to the EU’’.
Indeed, there’s already been an EU Court of Justice case (c274/99) that essentially makes it illegal to criticise the EU. Also a rapidly gathering trend to exploit the Health & Safety Act, anti-terror laws and ‘political correctness’ (see where it came from – ref. 2007-41) as excuses to suppress free speech.
The Commission also wishes to control what journalists can say – and even who can be a journalist (ref. 2008-02). “Critism of the EU is akin to blasphemy and can be restricted without affecting freedom of speech” Ruiz Colomer, Advocte General of the EU Court of Justice 19 Oct 2000 (case c-274/99)
© Mick Greenhough 2009
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View click for details of Hans Tillack case.
1 Sep 2006 – far the European Commission’s anti-fraud office (OLAF)’s actions are … Hans–
Tillack was treated like a terrorist by the Belgian police for writing the truth he had uncovered about the EU for the German paper Stern
A coup by the Left’s old boy network: The Leveson Inquiry has momentous implications for free speech. But this Mail dossier raises disturbing questions about the influence of a quasi-masonic nexus of the ‘people who know best’
SPECIAL INVESTIGATION By Richard Pendlebury 16 November 2012
This has been an extraordinary week for the BBC as it tears itself apart over one of the most catastrophic journalistic errors of modern times.
False allegations of paedophilia against an elderly Tory Party grandee have led to the resignation of the Director-General, the possible demise of the flagship Newsnight programme, the paying out of substantial libel damages and, worst of all, perhaps a shattering blow to BBC News’s reputation for integrity.
How could this happen? Why did no one carry out ‘basic journalistic checking’ of facts? Why weren’t those ‘facts’ put to the other side — the first rule of journalism?
Influence: Lord Justice Leveson (centre) and the assessors of his inquiry into culture practices and ethics of the press (from left to right) George Jones, Shami Chakrabarti, David Bell, David Currie, Paul Scott-Lee and Elinor Goodman
We don’t know, but we do know that behind this farrago is the work of a self-regarding body which calls itself the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), the organisation that took their ‘McAlpine exclusive’ to the BBC and whose managing editor resigned after gleefully tweeting about being ready to out a politician who was a paedophile.
In its recent submission to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, the BIJ declared that its ‘output and editorial processes’ would ‘be a masterclass, a gold standard for evidence-based journalismâ€‰ …â€‰jouurnalism of an outstanding kind.’
To describe this as hubris would be an understatement.
And at the centre of the story is an obscure but immensely well-connected member of Britain’s liberal Establishment, Sir David Bell, one of five BIJ trustees.
As we shall see in this Special Mail Investigation, Bell’s campaign, which began almost a decade ago, to control Britain’s raucous popular press and, in the process, promote what he regards as ethical journalism, has had momentous consequences.
Well-connected: Chief executive and founder of the charity Common Purpose Julia Middleton
One evening in January 2005 at the central London headquarters of Pearson Group — owneer of the Financial Times — an extraordinary working dinnner took place.
The host was Julia Middleton, a friend of David Bell’s and a brilliant networker, and the guests were a select group, drawn from the New-Labour-era Establishment. We know this thanks to an account of the event written for the left-of-centre New Statesman magazine by one of the attendees, the financial journalist Robert Peston, now the BBC’s Business Editor.
Peston described ‘a debate on media standards — with two editors, another BBCC executive, an investment banker, a Bank of England luminary, academics and a bishop, inter alia — (which) was mmore practical than most. We’d been summoned to dinnerâ€‰â€¦â€‰by Julia Middleton, the unrecognised toiler for the rehabilitation of the concerned, engaged citizen.
‘One of Middleton’s great skills is to persuade police constables, youth group organisers, permanent secretaries, FTSE chief executives and head teachers that they can learn from each other and could even cure some of society’s ills. However, almost all her meetings end up with a collective wail about the irresponsibility and excessive power of the media.
‘So she herded us into Pearson’s art-deco palace on the Strand in the hope that we could find an answer or two. Something may come of the proposals that were offered. Meanwhile, the discovery of the evening for me was that Pearson’s executive washroom is unisex, a la Ally McBeal. What is Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s personable chief executive, thinking of?’
Peston was unnervingly prescient about one thing.
Something has come of that soiree seven years ago.
That something is the Leveson Inquiry into Britain’s beleaguered newspaper industry. Its conclusions, which are to be published imminently, could have huge implications for a press that has been free of government control for 300 years, and for freedom of speech itself.
Sir David Bell’s certainly a very busy bee. A greying, dishevelled figure in an ill-fitting suit, he appears to have been by far the most assiduous of the six ‘assessors’ appointed by the government to advise Lord Justice Leveson and his Inquiry.
Bell is an ideological bedmate of the aforesaid Julia Middleton — another very busy bee who has beeen described as the best-connected woman you’ve never heard of.
There are serious questions about the impact Bell’s had on the Inquiry’s neutrality
But while some of the Leveson assessors have patchy attendance records at the Inquiry, Sir David — whose unbridled eagernesss to join the judge in his private rooms when the sittings rise has been remarked upon by observers — seems to haave barely missed a day of the public hearings that began almost a year ago.
Public-spirited you may say. Except that an investigation by the Daily Mail raises serious questions about the suitability of Bell as an assessor and the impact this may have had on the objectivity and neutrality of the Inquiry itself.
- Bell is a trustee and a former chairman of a leadership training organisation called Common Purpose, whose thousands of ‘graduates’ have been described as the ‘Left’s answer to the old boys’ network.’ (though not all share the same political views). Their identities are well protected.
- Founded by Ms Middleton and registered as a charity, Common Purpose boasts a ‘considerable reach’ throughout senior positions in public life. Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money have been spent on sending public servants on its courses.
- Three of the six Leveson assessors have Common Purpose connections, either through direct participation or through senior colleagues within the organisations they lead or have led.
- Bell and Middleton set up the Media Standards Trust, a lobby group which presented a huge amount of evidence to the Inquiry. The Media Standards Trust, whose chairman was Bell, gave its ‘prestigious’ Orwell Prize for political writing to a journalist who turned out to have made up parts of his ‘award-winning’ articles.
- The Media Standards Trust established Hacked Off, the virulently anti-popular-press campaign group which has boasted of its role in significantly increasing the Inquiry’s terms of reference. The Media Standards Trust shared the same headquarters address as Common Purpose. It then shared an address with Hacked Off, whose funding it controlled.
- Many of those who provided the most hostile anti-press evidence to Leveson are linked to senior figures at the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off.
- The Media Standards Trust has strong links with Ofcom, the statutory media regulator which, despite its denials, some suspect has ambitions to regulate Britain’s free press. Ofcom’s ex-chairman Lord Currie is a Leveson assessor.
- Much of the financing of the Media Standards Trust comes from a charity of which Bell is a trustee — a practice that, whhile legal, would seem to many to be inappropriate.
- Despite being formed by the Media Standards Trust, which is campaigning for ‘transparency and accountability in the news’, Hacked Off refuses to make explicit the sources of its own funding.
- And, of course, Bell is a trustee of the now notorious Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has wreaked such damage on the BBC.
Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry has major implications for free speech
Indeed, like some giant octopus, Common Purpose’s tentacles appear to reach into every cranny of the inner sanctums of Westminster, Whitehall and academia — bodiees that often view Britain’s unruly, disruptive press with disdain and distrust.
Lord Justice Leveson has already said that he hoped his report would be based on ‘unanimity’ of thought between him and his half dozen assessors, none of whom have ever worked in the popular press.
It should be stressed that there is absolutely no suggestion that Leveson — who did not choose his assessors— has any co connection to Common Purpose nor that he isn’t a man of integrity who has conducted his inquiry with impartiality.
Like a giant octopus, its tentacles reach into every cranny of the Establishment
But imagine the public outcry if it emerged during a criminal trial that half of the jurors, and many of the witnesses, were linked to bodies that had ‘wailed’ about the defendant, against whom they had a powerful shared antipathy.
That is the case with the Leveson Inquiry, as we shall show in this investigation into the Bell and Middleton network of influence. We will also be raising questions about their charity’s own behaviour. For we can reveal thatâ€‰…
Common Purpose almost certainly breached the Data Protection Act (which guards the confidentiality of digitally stored information), the very charge levelled by the Leveson Inquiry against virtually all newspapers.Common Purpose is connected to some of Britain’s most powerful lobby and PR groups, whose influence on British politics has provoked continuing controversy. Common Purpose linked figures have a significant influence on the appointments process in Whitehall. Until last year, Common Purpose’s David Bell sat on the committee that appointed Britain’s ‘Top 200’ civil servants.
As we shall now show, Hacked Off, one of the lobby groups created by Sir David Bell (who stepped down as chairman of the Media Standards Trust only when he was appointed a Leveson assessor) and Julia Middleton’s network played a significant role in creating and shaping the Leveson Inquiry, which will cost the taxpayer almost Â£6 million.
That is their campaign’s proud boast. And, as we shall see in this investigation, it is hard to dispute.
In Julia Middleton’s book Beyond Authority, which sets out Common Purpose’s leadership philosophy, she describes how she was told by a ‘group of peers’ the way in which to ‘force’ issues on to the agenda at Westminster.
It required: ‘A small committed and co-ordinated group of people producing pressure from the outside. Two or three determined fifth columnists on the inside. And the stamina from both groups to keep on and on and on putting them on the agenda until they eventually had to be discussedâ€‰…’
In another passage she wrote: ‘I spoke to a friend recently who described how she had set someone up. Using all her charm and flattery, she had drawn him in and then installed him as a convenient useful idiotâ€‰…â€‰My friend’s intention was to get him to produce a report which she knew full well would be a perfect smokescreen for her own activitiesâ€‰… <
‘Have I ever done this? Yesâ€‰…ââ€‰it was certainly useful to produce the distraction of creating a sub-committee, led by someone who did not really understand the big picture, to look into an issue in depth, with no timetable, so we could get on with what we saw as important issues.’
At the heart of the matrix: Sir David Bell attends the Sadler’s Wells Fundraising Gala at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London
In the past year, a firestorm has swept British journalism. The initial spark was the Guardian’s revelations that individuals employed by the News of the World had illegally hacked the voicemail messages of mobile phones of hundreds of celebrities and people in the news, including murder victim Milly Dowler.
Phone hacking is illegal. Currently dozens of journalists are under arrest in relation to such offences or making illegal payments to public officials.
But it was the claim that the News of the World had deleted Milly’s phone messages that provoked Prime Minister David Cameron — who against the advvice of many had persisted in retaining former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his press spokesman — to set up an inquiry into the British press, led by the respected Lord Justice Leveson.
No matter that the Guardian’s crucial allegation — that tthe News of the World had deleted voicemails from Milly’s phone which caused her parents to have had false hopes that she was alive — turned out almost certainly not to bbe true.
By the time that terrible error was revealed last December, the News of the World had been closed and the Inquiry widened to envelop the whole of the British press.
That is the triumph of those who, like Bell, have striven for years towards restraining what they see as the ‘excessive power’ of the British press. Yet, far from representing the ‘general public’ and the ‘people’ — both termss which they frequently appropriate — those people who kknow best are drawn from a narrow and powerful section of the liberal Establishment that has come into increasing conflict with much of Britain’s newspaper industry.
Significantly, among the leadership of Common Purpose, the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off, vested interests intertwine. Many, but by no means all, of the most prominent activists are politically left of centre. Some are involved in the quangos that the New Labour project created.
As such, they are representative of a new elite.
Bodies such as the BBC, the London School of Economics and, as noted, Financial Times owner Pearson Group are conspicuously over-represented.
‘Big money’ in the form of senior executives from some multinational banks and financial institutions most culpable in the global financial crisis of 2008 (and the resulting multi-billion-pound public bailouts) is also a notable presence.
No friends of the popular press, which has savaged City greed, are these. And at the heart of this matrix stand David Bell and Julia Middleton.
Lib Dem donor and one-time SDP activist Bell is a former chairman of the Financial Times, at the time Fleet Street’s most zealous supporter of the European Union. Bell is also a former director of the FT’s parent company Pearson, which was a financial backer of New Labour.
Mother-of-five Middleton is the founder, chief executive and presiding guru of Common Purpose. She has been described as ‘messianic’ in her crusade to improve standards in corporate and public life.
The question, of course, is why do so many of her soirees end in ‘a collective wail’ about the irresponsibility of the media?
Members of the Hacked Off campaign, (from left to right) Sally Dowler, Bob Dowler, and Gemma Dowler arrive at the Cabinet Office in Westminster, London, for a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in July last year
A clue can perhaps be found in a speech made to the LSE in 2004 by Geoff Mulgan, with whom Middleton had founded the New Labour think-tank Demos, described by the Pearson-owned Economist magazine — of whhich David Bell is still a non-executive director — as ”Britain’s most influential think-tank’.
A Guardian report of the Mulgan speech was headlined ‘The media’s lies poison our system: The ethic of searching for truth has gone; now there’s just cynicism.’
Mulgan, who with Peter Mandelson was an intellectual founding father of New Labour and later became Blair’s Head of Policy at No 10, thundered:
‘Problematic, however, is the lack of a strong ethic of searching for the truth in much of the mediaâ€‰…â€‰For from Europe to migrants, thhere is a wide gap between what the public believes and the factsâ€‰…â€‰For many [newspapers] it doesn’t much mattter whether what they print is true.
‘The net result is that the public are left with systematically incorrect perspectives on the world, on issues ranging from Europe and migrants to public servicesâ€‰…â€‰Journalists who used to dine with ppoliticians now dine on them.’
It seemed what really concerned Mulgan — desscribed as ‘the ultimate New Labourite’ — was the conserrvative press’s antipathy to the EU, mass immigration and incompetent public services.
There can be little doubt that he was referring to newspapers like The Sun, Express, Mail and Telegraph — paperss read by the majority. It is they who were the most critical of New Labour’s policies on the EU and mass immigration.
It was they, we can surmise, who provoked Ms Middleton’s wails.
Common Purpose has claimed more than 35,000 people have ‘graduated’ from its courses in the UK and across the world. As well as firms in the private sector, government departments, local authorities, quangos, charities and police forces have all sent staff on Common Purpose’s leadership programmes. A week long ’20:20′ course in advanced leadership costs almost Â£5,000.
Common Purpose ‘alumni’ are encouraged to network and assist each other, though a full list of their identities is not publicly available.
They have a private website, which requires a password to log in. Members who disclose information from this site face expulsion. Meetings are held under the so-called Chatham House rules, under which no one can be quoted by name. So much for the ‘transparency’ in public life that is being called for by the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off lobbyists.
However, the public area of the Common Purpose website, Middleton’s book Beyond Authority and other sources do reveal the identity of a number of prominent officials, ‘graduates’, course lecturers or those associates whom Middleton considers to be her ‘inspirational leaders’.
No friend of the press: Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry at the High Court in London on July 23
Sir Bob Kerslake, the recently appointed head of the Home Civil Service and Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, is a Common Purpose graduate, according to the organisation’s website. Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, has a full-page profile on the Common Purpose International website’s ‘who we are’ section.
Jon Williams, the BBC’s World News Editor since 2006, is also a graduate of Common Purpose London.
Professor Richard Sambrook, who was the BBC’s Head of News and director of the World Service, is quoted praising Common Purpose on the website. He spoke at a Common Purpose event but has denied being otherwise involved.
The BBC has told the Mail that, in a five-year period, it spent more than Â£126,000 on Common Purpose courses.
But it is Leveson assessor Lord Currie who (as we show later in fuller detail) illustrates the incestuous relationships that intertwine throughout this Inquiry.
He was the first chairman of the media regulator Ofcom, where former colleagues there included the ex-BBC executive Richard Hooper. Mr Hooper was a member of a review panel for Sir David Bell’s Media Standards Trust, while fellow Ofcom board member Ian Hargreaves was another founder of Labour think-tank Demos along with Julia Middleton. Hargreaves is also now a Hacked Off supporter and Leveson witness.
Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers arrives at Parliament in London to give evidence
During Currie’s tenure, Ofcom sent members of its staff on Common Purpose courses, although he is not personally a member of Common Purpose.
Another Common Purpose luminary is Chris Bryant MP â€” exposed by the press for posing in his underpants on internet dating sites. Bryant, who has led the charge against Rupert Murdoch in the Commons and was a Leveson witness, was Common Purpose’s London manager for two years.
Among the senior police officers who are also Common Purpose graduates is Cressida Dick, who was savaged by the press for her leading role in the 2005 shooting of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in a London Underground carriage.
It was Assistant Commissioner Dick who personally chose Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers to head the investigation into phone hacking and payments to police at News International.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers was in charge of the child protection team in Islington when the Evening Standard exposed a long-standing paedophile sex ring in the borough’s children’s homes.
Ms Akers was also in charge of the Met’s North West protection team in the months leading up to the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, who was tortured and murdered by her guardians. This episode, which again triggered a firestorm of media criticism and resulted in a public inquiry, led to her receiving ‘words of advice’ — the police equuivalent of a reprimand. Neither episode figures prominently in her official profiles. Indeed, none of this was mentioned when Ms Akers told the Leveson Inquiry that News International’s transgressions could not be defended as being in the public interest — a claim vigorously rebutteed by News International’s lawyers, who asked how Ms Akers was qualified to define the public interest.
Actor Hugh Grant attends a Hacked Off press conference with Lib Dem Dr Evan Harris (right) and journalist John Kampher
In all, Ms Akers appeared before the Leveson inquiry three times — more than any other witness.
Lord Blair, Cressida Dick’s boss at the Met, was another Leveson witness. Under Blair’s leadership, the Met spent tens of thousands of pounds on Common Purpose courses. The Met reviewed its training requirements in 2009.
Since the year Blair stepped down (2008-09), the Met says, no money has been spent on Common Purpose courses.
This week, Lord Blair said: ‘I support Common Purpose, as do the vast majority of leaders of major private and public organisations.’
One of the most lucrative connections between Common Purpose and the police involves the West Midlands force. Sir Paul Scott-Lee, the former West Midlands’ Chief Constable — now a consultant — is a Leveson assessor.
Using Freedom of Information requests, the Mail has established that 27 West Midlands officers, including one Assistant Chief Constable, went on Common Purpose courses under Sir Paul’s leadership.
It appears that the West Midlands expenditure on such courses during this period was significantly more than that of the far larger Metropolitan force.
For a number of years Common Purpose has attracted the obsessive attention of the more outrÃ© internet conspiracy theorists such as David Icke, as well as bloggers on the far Right. This has provided a convenient smokescreen against a more rational investigation.
But a number of credible parties have also sought to discover more about the charity’s presence within public bodies. In 2007, for example, Tory MP Philip Davies — concerned at the then New Labouur government’s apparent close links with the organisation — lodged written questions to a number of secretaries of state about how much their departments had spent on sending civil servants on Common Purpose courses.
The answers, which weren’t widely publicised but can be found on official parliamentary records, showed a total spend over a handful of years of more than Â£1 million.
Davies was told that the Department of Work and Pensions had spent almost Â£240,000 in five years, on courses which had ‘helped foster valuable partnerships in the local community which can be used to improve the service offered to our customers’. The Ministry of Defence had spent more than Â£300,000 over the same period.
While Common Purpose could do little about this kind of scrutiny, we now come to perhaps the most serious charge against this body: the suppressing and smearing of individual citizens who had lodged Freedom of Information questions about its activities.
On the specious basis that FoI legislation was being abused, causing damage to the charity’s reputation, Common Purpose compiled a ‘blacklist’ of the individuals concerned. Common Purpose officials sent private, personal details of these people to public bodies around the country, with the warning that new FoI requests about the charity from those listed should be treated as ‘vexatious’.
In other words, Common Purpose tried to block the legal rights of those individuals and prevent their freedom of expression.
The privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), investigated the affair, following complaints by five of those on the blacklist.
Blunders over a child sex scandal and a police chief with no love for the press
In response to a Freedom of Information request from this newspaper, a spokeswoman for the ICO said: ‘As far as we are aware, 18 individuals had their personal details disclosed by Common Purpose by way of the list provided to various public bodies.’
She said these details could ‘contain their name, and if known, also their address and/or phone number’.
In late 2009, the ICO ruled that Common Purpose was ‘unlikely to have complied with provisions in the Data Protection Act 1998 on processing data’. Their spokeswoman confirmed to the Mail: ‘In this case, the Act was probably breached.’
The ICO decided not to take ‘further action’ against Common Purpose ‘after the charity confirmed that it no longer distributed the list’ and Julia Middleton issued a statement in which she said: ‘As an organisation we made a genuine mistake in this instance. But it was in a very rapidly changing legal contextâ€‰…’
Now let’s put this mitigation into the context of the Leveson Inquiry and those Common Purpose-linked organisations, the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off.
Operation Motorman was a 2003 investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office into alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act by virtually all newspapers including the Mail and other media organisations, who had used a Hampshire private detective agency to obtain anything from addresses and phone numbers to, in some instances, licence plate owners and criminal records.
This was a time when the full implications of the Act were by no means clear. No journalist was ever prosecuted as a result of Motorman.
Hacked Off played a significant role in creating and shaping the Leveson Inquiry, which will cost the taxpayer almost Â£6 million
But Hacked Off and the Media Standards Trust have pushed ever harder for the Motorman files to be made public, and individual journalists named.
One is minded of Middleton’s explanation that Common Purpose had erred because of ‘a very rapidly changing legal context’. Yet the charity’s own data protection breaches were committed a full five years after Operation Motorman.
This episode provides a telling insight into the ‘don’t do as we do but do as we say’ mindset of Common Purpose’s leadership.
And yet who is the ultra-busy assessor helping Lord Justice Leveson write his report that could shape the future of the hitherto free press and the right to freedom of expression? Common Purpose trustee and former chairman Sir David Bell, creator of the Media Standards Trust and supporter of Hacked Off.
In his declaration of interests to the Inquiry, Bell explains away the blacklist episode like this: ‘Common Purpose has had several dealings in the past few years with the ICO in connection with comments that have been made repeatedly about it on the web without, in Common Purpose’s view, any foundation at all.’
With what can only be described as rank disingenuousness, there is no mention of breaching the law. When Bell’s participation as a Leveson assessor was announced last year, a Michael White, who had been on Common Purpose’s Freedom of Information blacklist, pointed out the contradiction.
Mr White, from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, was reported in the Sunday Telegraph as saying of Common Purpose: ‘My private address was in their blacklist and I was described as a vexatious and harassing individual.
‘I felt sick to think that Common Purpose had passed this around half the public authorities in the country. They got this data from their contacts in councils. The hypocrisy is stunning. These people quite rightly condemn invasions of privacy by the press while invading people’s privacy themselves.
‘They demand transparency for other people and fight it for themselves.’
Critics of Common Purpose can also be found among public figures who have had first-hand experience of its methods and networking.
David Gilbertson, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Assistant Inspector of HM Constabulary, told us: ‘I was invited to join Common Purpose some years ago. I went to six or eight training sessions. I had just been promoted to Commanderâ€‰…
‘I dropped out half way through the course. I thought it was a waste of my time and public money. The fees were being paid by the Met.
‘Some there clearly wanted to networkâ€‰…â€‰I know peeople use Common Purpose to do deals, because one person on the course turned up at my office in Scotland Yard with someone else pitching for an IT contract. I said I didn’t do contracts. It certainly wasn’t an application through the normal system.
‘People do see it as a way of getting on. On promotion forms, police officers are giving membership of Common Purpose as evidence of their ability to â€œnegotiateâ€�. Or their competence.
‘When I dropped out, I got a hard time from them. I was phoned by an organiser who told me I couldn’t call myself a Common Purpose graduate if I left. â€œYou’ve got to finish,â€� he warned me.’
We need transparency – not this modern version of a freemason’s handshake
Perhaps the final word on Common Purpose should go to Demetrious Panton, 44, an employment law advisor who has worked as an equalities consultant for many local authorities and national government bodies including John Prescott’s Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, for which he co-authored a report on race.
‘It’s a new old boys’ network,’ he explains ‘but the Left’s version of it — and I don’t like secretive deal-making and â€œgroup thinkâ€� of any kind.
‘What is interesting is that the same people appear in the same jobs, in different places, as if through a revolving door. They work for local authorities, leave, then come back as freelance â€œconsultantsâ€� with huge, inflated fees. They are often mediocre and there is no evidence of how or why they were chosen.
‘They can leave a council with a terrible reputation yet pop up next minute as head of a regulatory body and as a trustee of numerous bodies. It is a real money-spinner.
‘I got a visit from a Common Purpose group in 1998. I then worked for Coventry Council as Area Co-ordinator for all its services in North Coventry, a very poor area. My boss David Galliers organised the visit. He was openly a member of Common Purpose.
‘Common Purpose was a big thing at Coventry Council, it was the thing to be. About 20 members of Common Purpose locally visited my office as part of their training and I was required to talk to them about my work. They also went on a tour of the very poor estates I served, and met top local government officers. The area I worked for was very deprived, yet I had to put on a spread for these people. They came and they ate and they drank and they looked at the poor people.
‘I had an office that over-looked a particularly poor estate, and they looked at it through my windows and briefly visited it and I remember thinking that it was like a jamboree, an outing. I felt embarrassed by it, and uncomfortable for the residents that they were coming to look at. I didn’t want to be part of it.
‘It was like the visit at Christmas from the aunt that no one wanted. None of the individuals seemed to understand the real issues facing poor, working-class areas. I felt they were patronising and superficial, and that they were doing this to be in the fashion, rather than because they were really interested.
‘People in employment interviews should ask: â€œWhat networks do you belong to?â€� If you apply now for a job in local government, you have to state your relationship to any local politicians. So why not also to Common Purpose?
‘We need transparency in local government, not this modern version of the freemasons’ handshake.’
A prestige award for a liar and the McAlpine debacle
The Orwell Prize, which advertises itself as ‘Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing’, was first awarded in 1994.
In 2007, the Common Purpose offshoot, the Media Standards Trust (MST), became the lead partner in running the prize. The Orwell no doubt chimed with the Leftish political leanings of the MST’s founders and would be a beacon for the journalistic excellence and integrity that they espoused.
For the 2008 prize — the first to be awardeed under David Bell’s MST’s auspices — the three judges were Annalena McAfee, novelist and formerly a journalist on the Financial Times and The Guardian, former BBC executive Sir John Tusa and Albert Scardino, Guardian journalist, MST trustee and husband of Marjorie Scardino, boss of the Labour-donating Pearson Group, friend of Common Purpose’s founder Julia Middleton and financial backer of the Media Standards Trust.
Compromised: Johann Hari, who returned his Orwell Prize
Their award of the prize to Independent journalist Johann Hari was the start of a farce that was to badly compromise both the MST and Britain’s most high-minded paper.
A youthful, Left-wing polemicist with a taste for grandstanding, Hari was seemingly the perfect fit for the MST’s first foray into journalism awards. (Hari’s admiring boss Simon Kelner would be invited by the MST to join its ‘non-partisan’ review panel later that year.)
Hari’s award was given in spite of serious and long-standing concerns about the integrity of his work. Private Eye ran a long piece in early 2003, which identified several Hari reportage pieces for The Guardian and Independent in which he had simply invented his eyewitness accounts.
But Hari’s offences against journalism were much wider than simply making up ‘facts’.
Plagiarism, the use of old quotes as if they were new in interviews, alteration of Wikipedia biographies of enemies and ‘sock puppetry’ — the use of false identities to attack people on the internet — were also part of his modus operandi..
By June 2011 the evidence against him became so overwhelming, that the MST had to act and instructed the Orwell Prize council to launch an inquiry into the allegations.
Within a month the Orwell Prize issued a statement, in which it said: ‘No allegations have been made against Johann Hari’s 2008 Orwell Prize-winning pieces.’
Given the clear evidence of Hari’s dishonesty, this was disingenuous. In any event, both Private Eye and the Telegraph brought new allegations that Hari had made up parts of one of the Orwell Prize-winning pieces, about atrocities in the Congo.
Former BIJ managing editor Iain Overton has stepped down this week as a result of the scandal
In September 2011, Johann Hari announced that, though he stood by the articles which had won the Orwell Prize, he would be returning it as an act of contrition for the errors he had made elsewhere.
The Council later confirmed that he would have been stripped of the prize because of evidence of wrongdoing in one of his articles. The result? A bitter blow to the journalistic integrity of Britain’s so-called quality Press. But also to the credibility of the organisation which has given itself the role of determining the way the free Press is regulated.
Worse, much worse, was to follow with another of Sir David Bell’s journalism-improving projects.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism was launched in 2010, funded by a Â£2 million grant from Psion computer millionaire and Labour donor David Potter and his David and Elaine Potter Foundation. Sir David Bell, champion of what he regards as an ethical Press, became a trustee. The BIJ was run out of London’s City University, which three years earlier had awarded Sir David an honorary degree.
As we have reported, the BIJ proclaimed itself as the ‘gold standard’ by which other journalism could be measured. Its output and reportage ‘should be as close to incontrovertible as is possible’.
There were a number of experienced journalists with good track records on board. But while the BIJ won acclaim in some quarters, there was also criticism.
Six months after launch, the BIJ was working with The Guardian and other news organisations in preparing the WikiLeaks release of classified American military documents. But in giving an interview to an American magazine, BIJ managing editor Iain Overton leaked ‘major details’ which, The Guardian said this weekend, ‘put the entire project in jeopardy’.
An investigation of the Help for Heroes charity was also described by its subject as ‘misleading’.
Earlier this year, one of the Bureau’s staff confided that the original seed money had almost run out and the BIJ needed to secure new revenue sources. They have even turned to very unlikely benefactors such as Oxfam. But there was an ever greater need to find paid work at relatively wealthy channels such as the BBC.
Which is how they came to be working with Newsnight on a child abuse investigation.
The subsequent disaster was heralded by Overton’s now infamous tweet: ‘If all goes well, we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile.’
On Tuesday, Bell and his fellow BIJ trustees had a letter published in The Times. The tone was defiant rather than chastened.
‘The BBC required and had full editorial control throughout the production of the Newsnight programme,’ they said.
And they further qualified the Bureau’s role in the scandal: ‘We regret that a tweet by the Bureau’s managing editor in advance of the programme helped to feed inaccurate speculation about the identity of a political figure.’
The letter ended: ‘The Bureau’s work has won awards by disclosing important information in the public interest and, with only this recent exception, by maintaining high standards of journalism. The Bureau remains absolutely committed to that aim.’
Whether the Bureau — of which Leveson assessor Bell is a trustee — will survive to maintain those ‘high standards’ is a matter of some considerable doubt.
A European Union report has urged tight press regulation and demanded that Brussels officials are
given control of national media supervisors with new powers to enforce fines or the sacking of
Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry did shine a light on some genuine and shocking abuses of press power
– Leveson Report: Cameron’s Tory principles are protecting our ancient liberties
The EU report praises Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals Photo: Julian Simmonds
Bruno WaterfieldBy Bruno Waterfield, Brussels10:26AM GMT 22 Jan 2013The “high level” recommendations that will be used to draft future EU legislation also attack David
Cameron for failing to automatically implement proposals by the Lord Justice Leveson inquiry for a
state regulation of British press.The report, by a panel that includes Latvia’s former president and a former German justice minister,
was ordered by Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president, concluded that it was time to
introduce new rules to rein in the press.“All EU countries should have independent media councils,” the report concluded.“Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for
printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.”As well as setting up state regulators with draconian powers, the panel also recommended that the
European Commission be placed in overall control in order to ensure that the new watchdogs do not
breach EU laws……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
New police powers ‘will curb Press freedom’: Officers will be allowed to confiscate material from journalists
- Sweeping measures allow officers to demand information from sources
- Changes may also see journalists forced to reveal whistleblowers’ identities
- Worries over the affect new rules will have on freedom of speech
By Jack Doyle
PUBLISHED: 00:23, 15 February 2013 | UPDATED: 00:26, 15 February 2013
Police are set to be given powers to confiscate confidential material from reporters, sparking fears over press freedom in the UK. File picture
Police are set to be given new powers to seize confidential material from journalists.
In a worrying blow to Press freedom, the changes may also mean journalists will be forced to identify whistleblowers to the police.
Critics said the Home Office proposals, which follow recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson, would undermine investigative journalism and free speech.
It is feared that the changes will remove legal protections for anyone who releases material to reporters unless journalists can show their source did not breach confidentiality or act illegally.
The computer disc that contained the details of how MPs had been rampantly fiddling their expenses was technically stolen by a Westminster employee.
Padraig Reidy, of Index on Censorship, said: ‘These measures, if implemented, could have a real effect on journalism, free speech and the entire climate of freedom in the UK.
‘They grievously undermine the concept of confidentiality between reporters and sources that is essential for investigative journalism.’
Currently, journalists have protection under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) from disclosing material to the police, even if it had been obtained by a source acting in breach of confidence or unlawfully.
But during the Leveson inquiry, the police argued those protections should be removed, and the judge agreed.
It raises the prospect that someone who uncovers wrongdoing will not come forward if they risk being named to the police.
In a further attack on PACE, Lord Leveson suggested it could be made easier for the police to seize items belonging to journalists which may be linked to criminality.
Currently a judge can approve an order forcing media groups to hand over information but, crucially, detectives must first show they have tried to get the material by other means.
Straitjacket: There are fears the rules will curtail reporters’ freedom to expose corruption and other wrongdoing, such as the expenses scandal
In its response to the Leveson inquiry published on Wednesday, the Home Office accepted his recommendations on reforms to the Act.
But legal experts have warned the changes could undermine long-standing protections from the state.
Gavin Millar QC, an expert in media law, told the Guardian: ‘These amendments would make it much easier for the police to get orders requiring production of journalistic material. The police would not even have to try to get the evidence in other ways.
‘Journalists will only be able to claim confidentiality by testifying that the source was free to give them the material.
‘This will be impossible for most public interest disclosures by whistleblowers.’
Lord Justice Leveson warned the protections under PACE may have been abused to resist investigators during the phone hacking inquiry.
He called for journalists to respect the Act and not abuse it by ‘invoking it to cover up that which cannot be justified’.
Yesterday a 51-year-old police officer was arrested by Scotland Yard for allegedly leaking information to a newspaper, even though no money is thought to have changed hands.
The unnamed officer was arrested at 6am at his Wiltshire home on suspicion of misconduct in public office by officers from Operation Elveden.
His is the 107th arrest in connection with the multimillion-pound inquiries into phone and computer hacking and illegal payments to public officials.
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The truth about Hacked Off’s media coup
Andrew Gilligan uncovers the intriguing connections between Leveson and Left-wing ideology
10:00PM GMT 30 Mar 2013
Several weeks after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, one cynical journalist paid tribute to her parents’ “great skill” in managing the press.
“To an extraordinary extent, this story has been managed by its central characters,” he said. “Alastair Campbell may be nowhere about but this is, if not spin, then highly sophisticated news management.” A short time later, this same journalist penned a nuanced defence of the media’s right to get things wrong.
“The idea that people must always get their facts right, like almost everything that is labelled common sense, is incomplete and unsatisfactory,” he argued. “Life is more complicated than that . . . there are grey areas.”
In a fast-moving business, readers and lawyers “have to understand that you can’t hang around until every detail is perfect.”
In the few years since he wrote those words, life for Brian Cathcart has become a lot more black-and-white. In his new role as director of the Hacked Off campaign for a controlled press, he now claims that “most British national newspapers ruthlessly chose to exercise their great power for evil”.
Press inaccuracy has become a disease curable only by a state-backed regulator, and the McCann case is Exhibit A in what Hacked Off calls the “atrocities” perpetrated by the press.
“A whole industry has been roundly condemned by an official public inquiry,” Cathcart proclaims.
Lord Justice Leveson in fact said that he was “able to state with confidence that the majority of press practice is good, if not very good… Broadly speaking, stories are accurate, informative, well-written and respectful of the rights and interests of others.” Cathcart may not approve of tabloid journalists, but he certainly knows how to behave like one.
Who are Hacked Off? And how did Brian Cathcart and a small group of even more obscure allies come from nowhere to write perhaps the most important constitutional change yet of the 21st century?
The royal charter which has just ended 300 years of an unregulated press was, as they boast, “drafted with the help of Hacked Off”. The even more controversial “statutory underpinning,” with its coercive damages and fines, was, as they boast, “a measure suggested by Hacked Off’s chairman”.
The bragging is, if anything, underplayed: Lord Justice Leveson all but cut and pasted their suggestions into his report and the Government has adopted them with relatively few changes.
Hacked Off did it by using all the red-top tricks they claim to hate – broad-brush condemnations, simplistic arguments, distorted facts, behind-the-scenes political deal making, celebrity stardust and the emotive deployment of victims.
Their key skill was in presenting the crimes of some newspapers as the responsibility of all, and defining the issue as what Gerry McCann, on the Hacked Off website, called “a binary choice: the newspaper barons or the people they abused in search of profit. It is as simple as that.”
It is of course nothing like as simple as that.
But though Hacked Off acts in the name of victims of the press, victims are not its central concern. Unknown to most of the people it lobbies, Hacked Off is a campaign not just to tame the press, but to claim the country for the authoritarian Left. It does want to stop newspapers victimising individuals. But it also wants to force the press to serve defined social and political objectives – at the expense, if necessary, of the right to free expression.
As its key intellectual inspiration, Prof James Curran of Goldsmiths College, put it: “The problem is that the press was the principal cheerleader of the deregulatory politics that landed us in the economic mess we’re in.
“Our concerns should be confined not only to individual abuses, but to media moguls who distort the national conversation.”
Curran was speaking at a meeting on May 17 last year, one of several jointly organised by Hacked Off and a fascinating body he co-founded, the Co-ordinating Committee for Media Reform.
CCMR, which has received virtually no publicity in the mainstream media, is closely intertwined with Hacked Off, sharing key personnel.
Prof Natalie Fenton, another Goldsmiths academic and a key member of CCMR, is a director of Hacked Off. She co-chaired the meeting with Cathcart and is seen on the platform at most of Hacked Off’s events.
Writing on the “New Left Project” website, Fenton attacked the “excessively liberalised press” and the “naive pluralism” of “assuming that the more news we have, the more democratic our societies are”.
Curran, whose major book on the media is described as “the Bible” by Brian Cathcart, dismisses any regulatory model based simply on the “social worker mediation of individual grievances” – a sign, perhaps, of where victims really lie in his priorities.
He attacks what he calls the “First Amendment fundamentalism” of British newspapers, saying they should have “an obligation to serve the public good” and that discussion of media reform “should not be limited only to defending freedom of expression”. Another Hacked Off supporter, Prof Chris Frost, says: “The right to free expression… cannot be absolute… the key is to allow as much freedom as is concomitant with the rights of others balanced by the public interest.”
Frost wants newspapers to be forced to reflect “a fair selection of the day’s events”; a regulator, in other words, would decide what stories they covered.
At the May 17 event, numerous Left-wing speakers outlined their view of how the “public good” or the “public interest” as defined by a press regulator, should override freedom of expression.
Jacqui Davis, from Keep our NHS Public, said the media should be obliged to “stand up for the NHS”. Jacqui Hunt, from Equality Now, called for the regulator to ban Page 3, impose compulsory training for male journalists and require all reports on domestic violence to be “sensitive”.
Other groups described as “partner organisations” by Hacked Off’s website include the newly-established Youth Media Agency, which complained that the media’s “discriminatory” coverage of the August 2011 riots “singled out children and young people as the rioters” (72 per cent of those arrested were under 25) and Trans Media Watch, which condemns newspapers for “stigmatising” transsexuals. Alleged examples of discrimination, which Trans Media Watch wants to ban, included a reference to the Bois de Boulogne, a park in Paris, as “containing transsexual prostitutes”.
Another Hacked Off “partner” is Engage, an “anti-discrimination” group including Islamist sympathisers and whose staff have justified the killing of British soldiers. Engage was exposed by The Sunday Telegraph, in what it would no doubt protest to a regulator was “discriminatory” reporting.
Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent and a supporter of the rival Free Speech Network, funded by newspaper publishers, says: “It is not the job of the press to ‘support’ or ‘oppose’ the NHS, but to scrutinise it.
“Hacked Off criticise the press for not representing a variety of viewpoints, but that is precisely what they despise about it. Leveson has been persuaded to embrace unquestioningly a profoundly ideological description of the relationship between the British press and democracy, previously held only by a small group of Left-of-centre academics.”
Hacked Off’s staff does contain at least two token Conservatives – its spokesman, David Hass, is a former adviser to the then justice secretary, Ken Clarke, and its head of campaigns, Ella Mason, was a Tory aide at the 2010 election.
But a briefing memo, written by Mason and leaked to a newspaper last week, makes clear the campaign despises those Tories it has successfully used, saying: “These are likely to be people you intuitively distrust, dislike and despair of. If they are what we need to win, however, we must understand their value and not confuse their values with our intentions.”
Most of the organisation’s staff and those credited on its website are firmly of the Left. John Dickinson-Lilley, its parliamentary affairs officer, is a former Labour adviser. Julianne Marriott, who handles government relations, is a member of the Labour Party and director of Don’t Judge My Family, a campaign against the marriage tax allowance.
Hacked Off’s public contact person, Francine Hoenderkamp, is news editor of the “UK Feminista” website, “organiser of the Orgasmotron live music night” and the coordinator of the Turn Your Back on Page 3 campaign.
Jessica Riches, its web coordinator, is a former star of the campus Occupy movement. Cathcart himself is a fervent enthusiast for a united Europe who has described sterling as “nothing to be proud of”.
Two powerful lobbying companies with close links to the Labour Party have also supported Hacked Off. They are Sovereign Strategy, a controversial firm run by Labour’s former leader in the European Parliament and repeatedly exposed for alleged unethical dealings by the press, and BBM, run by two of Tony Blair’s former campaign staff.
Hacked Off sits at the centre of a network of broadly Left-liberal groups who have been campaigning for many years for media regulation but whose efforts were given a massive boost by the hacking scandal.
It grew out of the Media Standards Trust, which as early as 2009, long before the scandal broke, declared the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) unfit for purpose – claiming, without much evidence, that its “ineffectiveness” had reduced trust in the media.
In fact, MORI, which has polled on the question every year since 1999, finds that trust in journalists has risen slightly over that time. The Media Standards Trust’s director, Martin Moore, is also a director of Hacked Off.
The Media Standards Trust also launched Full Fact, a purportedly independent fact-checking website into the press and frequent complainant to the PCC, several of whose factchecks contain subtle Left-wing bias and whose complaints to the PCC are almost entirely against Right-wing newspapers.
Full Fact’s chief executive, Will Moy, is also a director of Hacked Off.
In 2010 Full Fact was refused charitable status by the Charity Commission on the grounds, according to Moy, that it did not meet “rigorous standards of objectivity and independence”.
Full Fact’s directors at the time of the Leveson Inquiry were two Labour peers, a Liberal Democrat peer and a former journalist tightly allied to Mr Blair, John Lloyd.
Lloyd, director of journalism at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, is the author of a book saying media cynicism about politics “undermines democracy” and calling for “intervention” to force news organisations to do more to support public institutions. The book cited the BBC’s story about Mr Blair’s “sexed-up” Iraq dossier as the key example of media wrongdoing.
In late 2011 Lloyd, the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off convened the “Media Regulation Round Table,” the group which drew up what has now become the royal charter. Two key representatives from the newspaper industry also attended.
One of them, Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors, now says: “I was perhaps naive in going there, thinking that something as grand as the Reuters Institute would have an open mind.
“We were the lone voices pushing for First Amendment purism, but it quickly became obvious that the views of Hugh Tomlinson [chair of Hacked Off] and Martin Moore were gaining all the weight.
“Hugh had his great scheme already half in place, and I said I was not prepared to go along with it.”
Hacked Off still, however, cited Satchwell’s presence to Lord Justice Leveson as proof that a “diverse and independent group” including the newspaper industry had been involved, though it was careful not to explicitly claim that Satchwell supported the plan. Impressed, Leveson cut and pasted substantial elements of the round table’s proposal into his report.
Hacked Off’s ultimate triumph was, of course, when its representatives sat round the table to pass its words into law. As its website exulted, “the time for whining is over”.
Since then, however, amid a massive backlash against its plan, even Hacked Off itself seems to recognise that it has overreached. “Did we win?” the website now asks.
As the truth – about Hacked Off, and about its “deal” – emerges, we must hope that the answer is no. For all the routine
disclaimers that no one wants political interference with the press, it is clear that is precisely what Hacked Off does want.
This was a sort of coup, by people even more unaccountable and unrepresentative than the average newspaper owner.
Forget the Mafia. Our Establishment covers up its crimes better than anyone
The British State protects its own. Whitehall does its utmost to safeguard former Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants from investigation by invoking the usually bogus defence of national security.
In this way, a curtain is drawn over past acts of carelessness or ineptitude in government. Skulduggery and lies are concealed. Official papers are not released for at least 20 years, and even then the more incriminating ones are held back.
The latest example of institutional cover-up concerns Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, and Sir Mark Allen, a former senior MI6 officer. Both men have reportedly said they cannot respond to allegations of conspiracy in the torture of a prominent Libyan dissident, pleading the need to keep official secrets.
The latest example of institutional cover-up concerns Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, pictured left, and Sir Mark Allen, a former senior MI6 officer, right. The two men deny doing anything unlawful
Their silence follows Whitehall’s refusal to release secret pre-Iraq War discussions between Tony Blair and President George W. Bush to the Chilcot Inquiry. Without such evidence Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues will be unable to produce a complete report on the Iraq War.
One would have hoped that Mr Straw and Sir Mark Allen would wish to co-operate in order to establish their innocence. In March 2004, Islamist leader Abdel Hakim Belhadj and his wife were snatched in Malaysia by the CIA and flown to Libya, where they were both tortured by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s thugs.
Whitehall has refused to release secret pre-Iraq War discussions between Tony Blair and President George W. Bush to the Chilcot Inquiry
MI6 was undoubtedly instrumental in this act of so-called extraordinary rendition. (Note that the last Labour government repeatedly denied any involvement in rendition.) In a chummy letter dated March 18, 2004, Sir Mark congratulated Musa Kusa — Gaddafi’s intelligence chief — on the ‘safe arrival’ of Belhadj in Libya.
A few days later, Tony Blair had his famous meeting with Gaddafi at his desert base. It was the first of many visits, and the beginning of a warm relationship between the two men. Britain’s delivery of Belhadj into the hands of his torturers was almost certainly Gaddafi’s precondition for talks.
The Chilcot Inquiry must address whether Mr Blair made private promises to the White House in 2002 to join military action before he had secured the agreement of either the Cabinet or Parliament
Isn’t that shameful? We should have qualms enough about Mr Blair’s love-in with a genocidal monster, but at least the defence of realpolitik might conceivably be entered. But knowingly handing over a man to torture? There can be no defence.
Mr Belhadj is claiming compensation from the British government and its intelligence agencies, as well as from Mr Straw and Sir Mark. The two men deny doing anything unlawful. Along with MI6, MI5, the Home Office and the Foreign Office, they blankly refuse to explain their role in the affair.
Some might say what is being protected is not national security but the reputations of government departments, ministers and civil servants. Many will think that, by insisting on remaining silent in the face of such grave charges, these people and institutions are condemning themselves.
Tony Blair meeting Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi at his desert base outside Sirte south of Tripoli, one of many meetings the two leaders had together
Of course there should be a proper investigation of Tony Blair’s relationship with Gaddafi, starting with the torture of Mr Belhadj and his wife, though this would be undermined by Whitehall, if the Chilcot Inquiry is anything to go by.
Set up in 2009, the Inquiry is now not expected to report until the end of this year or even the beginning of next. It has been beset by delays arising from continuing rows with the Government, which has been blocking the release of classified documents.
At the beginning of 2011, Britain’s then top mandarin, Gus O’Donnell, consulted Tony Blair before deciding not to release details of the former Prime Minister’s discussions with President Bush. Lord O’Donnell was appointed Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service when Mr Blair was in No 10.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve vetoed the release of papers to the Chilcot inquiry citing the privacy of Cabinet discussions
The key question that the Chilcot Inquiry must address is whether Mr Blair made private promises to the White House in 2002 to join military action before he had secured the agreement of either the Cabinet or Parliament. A transcript of his exchanges with the American President would very likely throw light on this matter.
Lord O’Donnell justified his refusal to release these papers on the grounds that Britain’s relations with the U.S. might be damaged. Even if this were true, the need to explain why Britain entered a possibly illegal — and certainly bloody and costly — war is surely paramount.
The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has effectively endorsed Lord O’Donnell’s actions by vetoing the release of Cabinet papers from the days leading up to the Iraq War. Mr Grieve said holding back the papers was necessary to protect the privacy of Cabinet discussions.
You might have thought this Tory-dominated Government would be happy to expose the shenanigans of its predecessor, but Whitehall’s love of secrecy persists from one administration to the next. Its greatest loyalty is to itself.
Will Chilcot be able to enlighten us about what really happened? I doubt it. As a result of Whitehall’s practised obfuscations, I don’t suppose Mr Blair will ever be asked to answer for his actions, any more than he will be required to explain his improperly close relations with Gaddafi, or Britain’s connivance in torture.
Nor do I imagine that his unrepentant sidekick, the thuggish Alastair Campbell, will be made to confront the enormity of his wrongdoing in confecting a bogus dossier in February 2003 which sought to make the case for war while using, without attribution, already published and, in some instances, highly tendentious material.
Statesmen and civil servants are on the receiving end of the most serious allegations — including lying to Parliament, torture, and taking this country to war on false pretences — and yet are allowed to take refuge in Whitehall’s vow of silence. The Mafia have a word for it: omerta.
I trust I am not being paranoid, but it is impossible not to register the starkly contrasting treatment being meted out to journalists and policemen for what mostly seem relatively trivial offences, and in some cases not offences at all.
Two senior policemen have been arrested at dawn in their homes for leaking stories to journalists, though in neither case is there any suggestion that money changed hands. Their alleged misdemeanour may be to do the very thing Whitehall abhors: passing on truthful information.
Scores of journalists have been arrested — their homes sometimes ransacked — because they have received information from the police. There is no defence if payment was made, though many people will judge such behaviour less egregious than the skulduggery that Whitehall strives to conceal.
Isn’t there a grotesque imbalance here? If you are an ex-Cabinet minister or former Prime Minister or ex-MI6 big cheese you can evade accountability by summoning up that indispensable catch-all, national security.
I am not talking about the pardonable mistakes that politicians are bound to make. Nor do I dispute that some matters of state must be kept secret.
But the State will not be rocked to its foundations if the chicanery of ministers and senior civil servants is revealed. On the contrary. We would all benefit from more honest and open government.
As it is, we have a secretive State that thrives on double standards. There is one law for most of us.
And, it would seem, there is sometimes no law at all for those telling us what to do.
Angered by the British media’s coverage of Brussels, the European Commission says it wants to be a “moral compass” against press misconduct, seeking new national and Europe-wide regulatory powers over journalists.
The EU has spent £2.3 million on the previously unpublicised “Mediadem” project to “reclaim a free and independent media”. In a “policy brief” co-authored by its lead British researcher, Rachael Craufurd Smith, Mediadem says it is “simplistic” to “see state influence [over the press] as inherently stifling”.
Dr Craufurd Smith, an Edinburgh University academic, said that it was also “simplistic” to believe that “market-driven media” were now “free and independent”.
Mediadem recently produced “recommendations for the UK” demanding the “imposition of sanctions beyond an apology or correction” on errant media outlets and the “co-ordination of the journalistic profession at the European level”.
The recommendations call for the press to be controlled by the same body and on the same basis as broadcasters, who are currently tightly regulated with statutory “balance” obligations that do not apply to newspapers.
Mediadem’s report pays tribute to the part played in its work by the Media Standards Trust and the Coordinating Committee for Media Reform (CCMR), the two key constituents of Hacked Off, whose late-night “deal” with politicians for a regulated press has sparked a fierce backlash among organisations campaigning for free speech.
CCMR, run by Left-wing academics at Goldsmith’s College, London, believes that concerns about the media “should not be confined only to individual abuses” and regulation should not simply be about the “social-worker mediation of grievances”.
The group wants a new media regulator to correct the “national conversation” which it says has been “distorted” by Right-wing newspapers and to change the “terms of public debate” by “imposing public-service duties” on the press. Hacked Off is closely intertwined with CCMR. Prof Natalie Fenton, one of Hacked Off’s directors and spokesmen, is a key figure in CCMR and the book about the media written by its co-founder and former chair, Prof James Curran, is described as “the Bible” by Brian Cathcart, Hacked Off’s executive director.
Writing on the “New Left Project” website, Prof Fenton attacked the “excessively liberalised press” and the “naive pluralism” of “assuming that the more news we have, the more democratic our societies are”.
Mediadem closely follows CCMR’s interventionist agenda. In the policy brief co-authored by Dr Craufurd Smith, it said: “Liberal conceptions of media freedom focus on editorial freedom for government interference…. [however] states may also be required to take positive measures to curtail the influence of powerful economic or political groups…. this entails that neither the media, nor those individuals who own or work for the media, enjoy an absolute right to freedom of expression.”
Asked whether the Mediadem initiative had been prompted by the EU’s belief that the press treats it unfairly, Dr Craufurd Smith said: “I think there might be an element of that. Citizens have a new expectation to obtain reliable information about what’s going on in Europe.”
She said that Mediadem’s recommendations were about “helping to protect the press from inappropriate commercial pressures and potential political pressures”. “People should not see this as being a threat.”
Dr Craufurd Smith said that discussions with the Media Standards Trust and CCMR had helped to inform Mediadem’s conclusions. A Hacked Off director, Professor Steven Barnett, was at the Brussels meeting in February where Mediadem launched its recommendations.
Mediadem is only one of at least five concerted and coordinated initiatives being pursued by Brussels to increase its powers over the media dramatically. Another EU programme, MediaAcT, has channelled about £100,000 of European cash directly to a key Hacked Off ally, the Mediawise campaign group.
Mediawise was created by Clive Soley, the then Labour MP, who was one of the first politicians in the recent era to attempt to introduce state regulation of the press.
It advises victims of media abuse and campaigns for regulation. Its EU money does not appear in its published accounts, but the grant and its amount was confirmed by Mediawise’s director, Mike Jempson, a lecturer at the University of the West of England. “The money is paid via the university, where we are based,” he said. The EU payments appear to account for almost all of Mediawise’s recent income.
Mr Jempson says his group is “associated with” Hacked Off and he writes on its website, most recently on March 20, two days after Hacked Off’s “deal” to establish a new state-backed press regulator under a royal charter.
MediaAcT is calling for the kind of “media accountability” favoured by Hacked Off and other such groups. In one of its papers, “Mapping media accountability in Europe and beyond,” Mr Jempson calls for press regulation on the grounds that it will “ensure that minority views and voices are heard”.
The actor Hugh Grant, a director and prominent supporter of Hacked Off, has been closely involved in EU-backed press regulation initiatives. Last June he spoke at an event in Brussels organised by the “Centre for Media Freedom and Media Pluralism,” a third new EU-funded project for “media accountability” established last year and based at the European University Institute in Florence. His fellow Hacked Off director, Prof Barnett, was on the event’s advisory committee and is a regular attendee at the centre’s meetings and summer school in Italy.
The EU media regulation initiatives are being led by Neelie Kroes, the vice-president of the European Commission.
Mr Grant said: “I had a very useful meeting with Ms Kroes. I think there is an appetite to do something about it [media regulation] and I think the EU is potentially uniquely placed to do something about this because many member state governments are effectively captured by the media. The EU is perhaps less biddable and we have more chance of getting something done at this level.”
Last month, Prof Barnett and Mr Grant were due to speak at the launch in the House of Lords of a fourth EU-related project, a “European Initiative for Media Pluralism” calling for tighter pan-European media regulation.
A fifth EU initiative, the “High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism”, recently delivered a report to Ms Kroes, calling for “a more extensive competence of the EU” in the field of media regulation. All EU countries, the report said, should be forced to have “media councils” exercising draconian controls over the press, including the power to ban people from working as journalists.
The “media councils,” the report said, should have “real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status”. They should “follow a set of European-wide standards” and be “monitored by the commission to ensure that they comply with European values”.
Ms Kroes’s spokesman, Ryan Heath, said the report showed that the commission should act as a “moral compass” on good journalistic practice. “We need to take decisive action to ensure the freedom and pluralism of our media in future,” he said. The commission has now launched a consultation on whether to implement the proposals in the report.
The report was co-authored by Ben Hammersley, who holds an official Government appointment as the Prime Minister’s “ambassador to Tech City”, the new media and technology cluster around the so-called “Silicon Roundabout” in East London.
Mr Hammersley is closely connected to Goldsmiths College, home base of the Coordinating Committee for Media Reform. He is “innovator in residence” at Goldsmiths’ Centre for Creative and Social Technologies, a cross-disciplinary centre at the college which covers courses in journalism.
Hacked Off said last night that it had not received money from the EU. However, the Media Standards Trust has received money from the EU’s European Social Fund for a study into local news.
The Media Standards Trust is also closely connected to a charity for training “future leaders” called Common Purpose, accused by its opponents of being a political front for pro-Brussels values, which it denies. Common Purpose was paid at least £1.4 million in EU grants in 2011, according to the EU financial transparency system database.
“The proposals emanating from Brussels make the Leveson Inquiry look like a Sunday afternoon picnic,” said the leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage. “The EU’s attempts to win positive coverage by state regulation is reminiscent of the days of Soviet Russia.”
By David Millward, Transport Editor
7:00AM BST 05 Oct 2013
Ministers have been accused of gagging councils opposed to flagship projects such as HS2.
A Bill before MPs would ban local authorities from campaigning against Government policy, even if they have overwhelming local backing.
This is being done by proposals to give the Local Authority Publicity Code – currently guidance – legal force.
According to the Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, this would effectively deny them the right to protest on behalf of residents.
The highest profile campaign in recent months has been that by the 51m group of 19 councils of all political persuasions opposed to the £50 billion HS2 scheme
I have some sympathy with the Government there is obviously a need to crack down on frivolous campaign by local authorities,” said Martin Tett, Tory leader of Buckinghamshire County Council.
“However there is still a need for local authorities to be able to stand up for their residents on major issues which affect those residents
“We fought the last council election on a platform of opposing HS2 and believe we have been given a clear mandate to do so.”
The move also comes ahead of the Government hearing the initial findings of the Davies Commission into airport capacity in London and the South East.
When the last Government backed proposals for a Heathrow third runway, it ran into fierce opposition from councils underneath the flight path.
It is likely that councils whose residents would find themselves adversely affected by new proposals would use public money to defend their interests.
Sir Merrick Cockell, the chairman of the Local Government Association, condemned the proposals from Whitehall.
“Councils have a legitimate, local, democratic mandate. They have a proud history of campaigning on behalf of their residents who rightly look to them to unite communities and stand up for their best interests.
“That might often be inconvenient for central government, but a community being able to fight for or against unpopular or controversial proposals affecting their area is a key part of democracy.
“This independent legal advice also confirms our fears that a government could hand power to one individual in Whitehall to restrict councils from campaigning on important issues such as HS2 or hospital closures if they so wish.
“To simply make it easier for government to ignore the views of communities is unacceptable, sets a dangerous precedent and will mean local areas and residents will suffer as a result.
But Brandon Lewis, the local government minister, defended the move.
“Parliament has already approved the Publicity Code, but putting it on a statutory basis will address this corrosive abuse of taxpayers’ money.