The Daily Telegraph’s award-winning scoop on MPs’ expenses last year would be illegal under the Bribery Act, Daily Mail executive managing editor Robin Esser warned this morning.
The new president of the Society of Editors used his closing speech at the group’s conference in Glasgow to condemn the many pieces of legislation that can now be used against journalists.
He said: “In Britain there are now many Acts under which journalists can be jailed for doing their job. Jail is the punishment for breaches of the Bribery Act, potentially in the Data Protection Act, in the Harassment Act and in the anti-terrorist laws.
“It is prescribed in the Representation of the People Act, in the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994.In the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008. In the Racial & Religious Hatred Act 2006 in the Public Order Act and the Criminal Justice Act 1987and in the Official Secrets Act 1989.
“The Labour Government, almost with its last breath, brought in the Bribery Act which could – and given the impact on Members of Parliament possibly would – have been used to prevent the Daily Telegraph publishing their MP’s expenses expose which has altered the face of Parliament for ever.
“Obtaining the scoop in the way the Telegraph did is now illegal under the terms of this Act. And, incredibly, the Act has no public interest defence. It’s a wonder many of us are not behind bars.”
Esser used his speech to call for the abolition of Ofcom.
He said: ‘Licences for journalism should have no place in a democratic society. Ofcom has an annual budget of £143m mostly paid for by the taxpayer and they currently employ 873 people.
‘The Press Complaints Commission‘s annual budget is just under £2m and they employ 15.5 people, the taxpayer’s contribution is nil.”