The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

Well, the current public interest test, insofar as it exists in libel, namely the Reynolds defence, we have contended right from the outset, and I'm pleased to say I think this seems to now have broad consensus in the originals of the draft bill and in the joint committee's response to the draft bill and hopefully in the final bill soon to be published. We think the Reynolds defence is not remotely a strong enough public interest defence and a defence of responsible journalism.

So there isn't, in many cases and in other torts, in our view, a strong enough defence of public interest journalism recognised in courts, and as written in our submission, it doesn't exist in a series of laws where -- I completely agree with Jonathan -- it is a qualified defence. It cannot be an absolute defence. You couldn't say, "The fact that we revealed, in a war situation, you know -- two hours before troops were being sent in a particular place, we revealed that they were going to invade this part of a particular country; that was a public interest defence." I think any such defence would be seen as insufficient where it came to endangering life or dealing in operations or that kind of thing.

But I would throw it slightly on its head and say in those various laws where -- I mean, I've written a lot about what I regard as an absence of civil liberties in this country which permeates very deeply into a very secretive Whitehall mindset. There is a suspicion invariably of information and there is almost a -- built into the walls, there is a determination to keep as much information out of the public domain as possible.

One example: when I was editing the New Statesman, we had a very strong story given to us by a whistle-blower in the Foreign Office. We were taken to the official secrets -- we were slapped with an official secrets case, my magazine and the whistle-blower -- interestingly not me myself. It's interesting how, in all these issues, whether it's official secrets or libel, they can pick and choose who they go for at individual times. And it was thrown out on the first day, I'm pleased to say, at the Bailey, because this was a straightforward case of trying to silence a publication in order to save the bacon of a cabinet minister. It's all in the public record.

And there is often a presumption -- one can get into the wrongful or misguided error of always thinking it's the media that is doing too much. I repeat my statement of earlier, that in so, so many areas it is extremely difficult for the media, faced with a wall of laws and other restrictions, to find out otherwise legitimate information.

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