Public 'should have statutory right of reply', Leveson told

Members of the public should have a statutory “right of reply” if newspapers print inaccurate information about them, the Leveson Inquiry into press standards was told today.

In “serious cases” the reply should be given the same prominence as the original article, James Curran, chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee for Media Reform, told the inquiry in a written statement.

“A statutory right of reply should be introduced applying to any person who has been directly mentioned in an article,” Professor Curran wrote.

“In particularly serious cases… the right of reply should be offered with the same prominence, and in the same position, as the original article.”

The right of reply should be available to anyone named in print or online who wished to correct a “clear factual inaccuracy”, he said, adding: “When information is inaccurate, unfair, or just ‘made up’, real people are affected and they should have a right to correct misleading statements.

“By insisting on a qualified, enforceable right of reply, the British news media would be immediately opened up to alternative points of view, with a minimum of disruption to existing practices.

“And we should not underestimate the size of this problem or the distress it causes. The Press Complaints Commission‘s statistics show that in 2009, 87.2% of the complaints it received concerned accuracy and opportunity to reply.”

Members of the committee, which co-ordinates work by academics and media campaigners, gave evidence as inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson considered ways of regulating newspapers.

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