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NUJ condemns 'dirty deal' to exclude 'journalists, press victims and the public' from press regulation discussions

The National Union of Journalists has said that publishers are seeking to exclude "journalists, press victims and the public" from playing any part in the future regulation of the press.

Back in November, PCC chairman Lord Hunt suggested that within weeks of the publication of the Leveson report there could be a conference bringing together representatives of the press and campaigning groups to reach a consensus on regulatory reform.

But since then negotiations around the constitution of the replacement body to the PCC have been confined to publishers, owners and leading editors.

The last media briefing on behalf of the PCC was on 14 January, when PCC chairman Lord Hunt said that representatives of the industry had agreed to press ahead with a contract-based system of press regulation which was fully "Leveson compliant" - including a conscience clause in journalists' contracts and a whistleblowers' hotline. 

Since then there is believed to have been a period of intense negotiations between publishers and politicians ahead of the proposal for a regulator backed by Royal Charter put forward by the Conservatives. These negotiations are believed to be ongoing as the Government tries to find a formula which is agreeable to all three main political parties and press owners/publishers/leading editors.

According to the NUJ, Harriet Harman has written to Lord Hunt to "express her concern about the attempts by publishers to exclude journalists".

The union said in a statement: "Lord Leveson’s report made it clear that the new regulator and its code committee should not be limited solely to editors and should include journalists and more members of the public. The publishers are lobbying hard to ensure only they and editors are represented on the new body.

"The union is concerned that secret backdoor deals between Government ministers and newspaper owners, with the most to gain from weak regulation, are working together to offer parliament a regulator heavily controlled by the publishers that will ignore a number of the recommendations Leveson called for that have been widely welcomed.

NUJ ethics council chair Chris Frost said: “Newspaper owners have used their papers to present Leveson’s recommendations as an attempt at statutory control of free speech – but this is complete nonsense and a dangerous lie. The report calls for a free press responsible to an independent self-regulatory body with wide representation including journalists and the public.”

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "This is more evidence that we cannot trust David Cameron – we already knew we couldn’t trust the newspaper publishers. They have gone back on their promises to pick up the Leveson recommendations, generally seen as moderate and proportionate, and have conspired together to offer a solution that ignores journalists, excludes the public and the victims of phone hacking and serves only the interests of publishers.  Journalists want a vibrant lively newspaper industry; this dirty deal will never lead to that.”

Press industry negotiations are apparently being led by former Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright. He said he was unable to comment at this time.

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