LETTER: Freedom of the Press is important

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In his inaugural Leader-Times newspaper column, Conservative MP Andrew Stephenson shares his concerns with the readership and his Pendle constituents by stating he believes “a free press, locally and nationally, is an essential part of a healthy democracy”.

Who wouldn’t agree? He cites the recent problems at News International and associated issue of press freedoms which, as most people will be aware, has resulted in the closure of the News of the World newspaper after a 168-year existence.

Mr Stephenson then deliberates over potential reporting restrictions via proposals to licence journalists in the future, which he asserts “would be a retrograde step”.

Interestingly, however, Mr Stephenson fails to mention the employment of over 200 News of the World journalists was brought to an abrupt end, largely, not due to individual acts of supposed irresponsible journalism but, instead, as a direct consequence of a particular culture cultivated at the very top of News International’s hierarchy.

As Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, stated on July 7th, “it is not ordinary working journalists who have destroyed this paper’s credibility - it is the actions of Murdoch’s most senior people”.

She continues: “It is ironic that 25 years after the Wapping dispute, it is the behaviour of Rupert Murdoch and his management that has caused the closure of the newspaper.”

Indeed, as former Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has learned to his personal cost and via the damage caused to Mr Stephenson’s Coalition cabinet colleagues this week, it is important our institutions, public and private, are accountable and transparent in all aspects of organisational conduct, whether internal or external.

TONY FORT

Grafton Avenue, Reedley