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British press react to hacking report
November 29th, 2012
04:30 PM ET

British press react to hacking report

By Nova Safo, CNN

(CNN) - The judge tasked with investigating allegations of phone hacking and other wrongdoing by British press, has released a report saying the industry should create a self-regulating body that is supported by new law and the power to fine. The report by Judge Brian Leveson, while not recommending that Parliament set up a press regulator, nevertheless is being met by controversy and skepticism by journalists in Britain.

Freddy Gray, deputy editor of The Spectator, said his publication opposes any government-controlled regulation, because a free press is vitally important:

[2:01] “The problem with regulating free speech, I don’t need to lecture Americans about, because it’s a fundamental right, it’s not something like the law or being a realtor or something like that. When you’re talking about censoring journalism or trying to control journalism, it’s very different than trying to control another industry.”

Some British newspapers have come out in support of a new self-regulating body, including The Guardian.

Lawyer Steven Mandell specializes in media law and libel cases. Mandell points out that England already has some of the toughest libel laws of any Western country:

[3:27] “In the U.S a plaintiff must prove that what the speaker said was false. Whereas in England the speaker has the burden of proving that what he said was true.”

That distinction means British press must have more direct proof before printing a story, Mandell said. Such a tough standard might have been part of the problem, according to Wolff:

[4:15] “I think you can make the argument that one of the reasons that hacking occurs, is that that was an efficient way to get around all the myriad libel regulations. They needed proof, they went out and got proof.”

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