Thank you to constituents who have written to me about their concerns over the treatment of public figures such as Ben Stokes, Gareth Thomas and the Duchess of Sussex.
At the heart of the issue two fundamental tenets of democracy are in question: The right to privacy and the freedom of the press, both of which are guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every individual has a right to respect for their private life, their family and their home. At the same time, it is in everyone’s interest to have a free and functioning press that is not subjected to arbitrary interreference from any public body or anyone.
Following multiple allegations of illegal and improper press intrusion on a number of individuals, the Leveson Inquiry was set up in 2012 to thoroughly examined the culture, practices and ethics of our press.
The inquiry and investigations were comprehensive, and since it was set up, there have been extensive reforms to policing practices and significant changes to press self-regulation.
Two regulators have been created since then: IMPRESS and IPSO. The majority of IMPRESS’ members are local publishers but IPSO regulates 95% of national newspapers in terms of their circulation. In 2016, Sir Joseph Pilling concluded that IPSO largely complied with Leveson’s recommendations in his review of its independence.
In 2017, meanwhile, IPSO dealt with over 20,000 complaints and enquiries in 2017, and has ordered multiple front page corrections or clarifications. And since then it has taken significant steps to demonstrate its independence as a regulator with further improvements. It has announced that it is creating a compulsory version of its low-cost arbitration scheme, which national newspapers have now signed up to. This means that someone who has a genuine claim against a newspaper who could have gone to court can now demand arbitration of their claim and the newspaper cannot refuse. This includes a higher level of damages and includes cases of invasion of privacy or harassment which either of the cases you mentioned could have fallen under.
I’m also glad to see that most newspapers have also made improvements to their governance frameworks to improve their internal controls, standards and compliance.
Finally, regarding the government’s proposals to regulate social media, these were published in our Online Harms White Paper in April of this year. I am assured that my ministerial colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will continue to look at ways to better regulate our media whilst ensuring that it can continue to hold the powerful to account.