Lord Justice Leveson has warned that unless criminal and civil law is enforced against bloggers, the quality of journalism in conventional media could deteriorate.
Leveson, speaking in Melbourne, Australia on Wednesday morning (UK time), said journalists on newspapers might be encouraged to cut corners and to adopt unethical and potentially illegal practices to get a story in the face of competition from the internet.
The court of appeal judge who presided over the 16-month inquiry into media ethics and practices in the UK made his remarks at his second public outing since his report on the future of press regulation was published on 29 November.
In a speech entitled Hold the front page: news gathering in a time of change, he told the University of Melbourne that “the question for us all” will be what changes will become necessary “to ensure that the criminal and civil law remain effective” for both the internet and conventional media.
The competition from bloggers and tweeters, “may encourage unethical and potentially unlawful practices to get a story”, he said.
“The effect then is an indirect one, and one which lies behind the headline and the front-page scoop,” Leveson added. “In a culture which sees some act with impunity in the face of the civil law, and the criminal law, a general decline in standards may arise.”
He described bloggers and tweeters as an “electronic version of pub gossip” and said they acted differently to established journalists who have “a powerful reputation for accuracy”. He added that it was a “pernicious and false belief” that bloggers were not subject to the same laws as print and broadcast journalists.
How will the quality of journalism in conventional media deteriorate because of what bloggers post? Has journalism fallen to such low standards that we need to prosecute offending bloggers to protect journalists?
It is the blogging network that has borne the brunt of State terrorism in Iran, China, Syria etc. for speaking the truth about ground realities. So does Lord Leveson agree with these governments that are prosecuting their own bloggers because they have broken the law? Or, is there selective amnesia prevalent.
The truth is that governments around the world have suddenly woken up to the power of the internet and the influence of bloggers. They now seek to control this media. These utterances by His Lordship head in this direction.
So, are we on the threshold of an Orwellian Era?
BTW I don’t recall reading anywhere in the Report about prosecuting bloggers to prevent inept journalists from plagiarising their posts? Could this be Lord Leveson’s Epiphany in Oz?