The major journalism publishers this week rallied for a last-ditch fight against any form of statutory regulation with the launch of a coalition called the Free Speech Network.
Publishers fear that Lord Justice Leveson will recommend that the Press Complaints Commission is replaced with a new ‘independent’ regulator underpinned by statute.
His report is due to be published at some point in the autumn.
If he does recommend a new statutory regulator it will be up to the Government whether or not to enforce his recommendations in full.
Prime Minister David Cameron said last month that he would implement Leveson’s recommendations provided they were not “bonkers”.
The Free Speech Network is being organised by the Society of Editors, the Newspaper Society/Newspaper Publishers Association and the PPA and all the major national newspaper publishers have signed up to its mission statement – including Guardian News and Media and Northern and Shell.
The mission statement says: “Successive UK governments have campaigned vigorously to persuade other countries to abolish controls on the press. Yet, as the Leveson Report nears completion, demands for regulation of the press backed by statute grow louder and more insistent.
If those voices prevail, the impact on a free society would be incalculable at home and send dangerous messages abroad.”
Society of Editors executive President Bob Satchwell said: “The Free Speech Network is a loose network of like-minded people and organisations who want to highlight the dangers of any move towards statutory regulation.
“The problem is once you go down that road you don’t know where you will end up in the future.”
The body launched last night with an event to mark the publication of a pamphlet by journalism academic Tim Luckhurst called Responsibility Without Power which makes the argument against any statutory involvement in regulation of the press.
Meanwhile those backing some form of independent regulator underpinned by statute led by campaign group Hacked Off.