Right of reply bill aims to oust PCC

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The NUJ has backed a bill published today (22/2/05) which
would give Britons a statutory right of reply to anaccuracies about
them which appear in the press.
 
Labour MP Peter Bradley is introducing the bill
which also enjoys support from members of the two other main parties,
the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and the pressure group
Mediawise.
 
He is proposing the new leglislation as an
alternative to the Press Complaints Commission – which he described as
“toothless and ineffectual”.
 
Speaking in the House of Commons Bradley said:
“It’s not my purpose to interfere in any way with the freedom of the
press and the Bill doesn’t do that. But it does recognise that if
newspapers have rights, so should the people they write about.
Individuals have a right not to be misrepresented and the public has a
right not to be misled.”
 
“The Bill seeks to establish strong and effective
protection for individuals and groups whose reputations can be so
easily damaged by inaccurate reporting and who currently have little or
no means of defending themselves against the power of the press.
 
“The vast majority of the thousands who complain
each year to Press Complaints Commission are people the PCC describes
as ordinary. Too often their lives and livelihoods are irreparably
damaged by a newspaper’s casual inaccuracies and too often their
complaint is ignored by the editor.
 
“Currently they have two choices: either to take
their case to the Press Complaints Commission which has proved over
many years to be toothless and ineffectual or to the courts which few
can afford.
 
“My Bill would ensure that when a complaint is
justified, a newspaper would be required to publish a correction
speedily and prominently. It’s my expectation that if this citizen’s
right existed, the worst offenders in the press would clean their acts
up very quickly and we would see higher standards of journalism, less
casual inaccuracy, more respect for individuals’ reputations and,
ultimately fewer complaints.”
 
He added: “It’s crucial for politicians, press
and public alike that we restore the sense of trust which is essential
in a democratic society and I believe that my Bill could play a small
but significant part in doing that.
 
“No journalist need fear my Bill. Only the worst
will be inconvenienced by it. Most, I believe, will welcome it because
as well as protecting the reputations of others, it will help to
restore their own.”
 
The Right of Reply and Press Standards Bill’s Second Reading in the House of Commons is scheduled for Friday 25 February.

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