A who’s who list from the worlds of British literature, culture, politics and media have thrown their weight behind the Royal Charter on Press Self- Regulation — the contentious legal framework of press regulation that the U.K. Parliament passed on 30 October last year, and which a large section of media owners have rejected.
In a signed appeal titled “The Leveson Royal Charter Declaration” carried as a full-page advertisement headlined “What do all these people have in common?” and published in three leading British newspapers, the signatories said the press “has nothing to lose, and can only be enhanced, by acknowledging unethical practice in its midst and acting firmly to ensure it is not repeated”.
“We also believe that editors and journalists will rise in public esteem when they accept a form of self-regulation that is independently audited on the lines recommended by Lord Justice Leveson and laid down in the Royal Charter of 30 October 2013,” the statement said.
Adding that the Charter “safeguards the press from political interference while also giving vital protection to the vulnerable”, the celebrities urged “newspaper publishers to embrace it”.
Amongst the signatories are writers such as J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, V.S. Naipaul, Philip Pullman, Claire Tomalin, Monica Ali, A.S. Byatt, Michael Ondaatje, Michael Frayn, Allan Hollinghurst, Kazuo Ishiguro and Richard Dawkins; actors and film makers John Cleese, Danny Boyle, Sir Ian McKellan, Sir Tom Stoppard, and Maggie Smith; journalists John Pilger and Polly Toynbee; several victims of the hacking scandal; lawyers, political figures, academics and politicians.
The appeal comes as revelations of murky newsroom practices emerge on a daily basis from the ongoing trial in the Old Bailey of Rebekah Brookes, former News International chief executive and editor of the Sun and News of the World, and her six co-defendants.
The appeal also coincides with the online publication on Monday of a report released by a fact-finding delegation of international editors who visited the UK this January to study the press scenario on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).
WAN-INFRA takes the opposite view on the Royal Charter. “The lack of any real guarantees enshrining press freedom continues to expose journalism in the United Kingdom to great uncertainty, as there is nothing benign in a system that invites even the possibility of tighter restrictions on freedom of expression,” said WAN-IFRA CEO, Vincent Peyrègne.
WAN-IFRA, which says that British press practices set the standards for other countries to follow, has asked the U.K. government to stop “interference in the editorial independence of the Guardian newspaper” and “stronger support for public interest journalism”.