Morgan urges Leveson to show more balance to press

Ex-Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan yesterday claimed the Leveson Inquiry into press standards lacked ‘balance’and was not hearing about the positive work journalists do.

At the conclusion of his evidence the former News of the World and Daily MIrror editor told Lord Justice Leveson that the session had gone how he thought it would by becoming ‘almost like a rock star having an album brought out from his back catalogue with all his worst-ever hits”.

‘I do feel still very proud of a lot of the very good stuff that both the Mirror and the News of the World did in my tenure as editor, and it does slightly concern me because watching the inquiry I think a lot of it is very, very useful , but I do think there has to be a better balance here,” he said.

‘A lot of the very good things that the newspapers were doing in those periods, and continue to do, are not being highlighted at all.”

Leveson responded by saying he had emphasised the need for balance on several occasions, telling Morgan: ‘I’m very conscious, as I’ve said many times, of the enormously important work that all newspapers do, which is why I’ve always made it very clear that the critical importance of freedom of expression and freedom of the press is to be preserved.”

‘I was castigated by The Guardian’

During his evidence yesterday Morgan also made repeated criticisms of The Guardian.

Asked about his decision not to publish details of a leaked copy of Ken Clarke’s budget in 1996 – which Morgan believed could trigger ‘financial turmoil’– he claimed that ‘within the space of 24 hours I was castigated by The Guardian”.

‘On the night they praised me for what I’d done and then by the next day they’d come round to thinking this was a terrible abrogation of my journalistic duties, so clearly there were different views about what I’d done,’he said.

He later accused the newspaper of phone-hacking, a reference to David Leigh’s admission following the arrest News of World Royal editor Clive Goodman over phone-hacking in 2006.

Leigh revealed that he had once listened to the mobile phone messages of a corrupt arms company executive and said there was ‘certainly a voyeuristic thrill in hearing another person’s private messages”.

‘Guardian have appointed themselves the bishops of Fleet Street’

Leigh was on the receiving end of more criticism when Morgan was questioned on Benjamin Pell, better known ‘Benjy the Binman”, the man who passed on information to newspapers obtained from the dustbins of law firms.

The Guardian’s Nick Davies was questioned on Leigh’s use of Pell at the inquiry last month. He described Leigh as a ‘fantastic reporter’and a ‘kind of artful dodger’figure who saw the ‘exciting potential of this extraordinary man who was digging material out of significant people’s dustbins, but he could also see that the Guardian were never going to pay for it”.

Instead, Davies said, Leigh ‘very cleverly passed Benjamin on to somebody else who could deal with him and this somebody else was a friend who was highly likely to tell him if anything interesting emerged from the bin”.

Morgan also admitted receiving information from Pell – but accused The Guardian of taking the ‘discarded remains from the tabloids”.

He said: ‘Did I think he was doing anything illegal? No. Did I think it was on the cusp of unethical? Yes.

‘It’s interesting to me to see the testimony of David Leigh, the chief investigations editor from The Guardian, who decided to make somebody else pay for this information whilst hoovering up all the details himself, which is something The Guardian’s very good at.

‘Since they’ve appointed themselves as the bishops of Fleet Street, I’d quite like to examine that practice, because in a way it’s not massively dissimilar.

‘They take the discarded remains from the tabloids, fill their papers with them, but never have to pay anything.

‘If I’d thought of what David Leigh did then the Daily Mirror would have been a lot more profitable.’

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