Last updated: November 3, 2011 - 2:37pm
[Commentary] As the UK’s Leveson Inquiry into the culture of the press moves into its stride, it is timely to contemplate the proper function of journalism in democratic societies.
The Leveson Inquiry was set up in reaction to the criminal phone hacking at News of the World – a scandal that to some seems the metastasis of innate pathologies of UK journalism. But the scandal was brought to light by a British newspaper, The Guardian. That the wheels of justice were finally put in motion proves that the UK’s independent press still fulfills its public function.
Reform of the regulation of press conduct cannot jeopardize journalists’ ability to expose and hold the powerful to account. Criminal acts by members of the press must, of course, be punished. Legal but appalling conduct will at times happen – but the profession itself should bear the responsibility for preventing it. As with all social activity, a space for judgment by personal and collective conscience should be left free by the law. A country where press standards needed to be enforced by the government would long have ceased being a democracy.
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