Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today denied that newspapers were excluded from crucial talks on the creation of a powerful new press regulator backed by legislation.
The Liberal Democrat leader insisted that late-night talks where the three main parties finally clinched a deal had only been dealing with one technical legal issue.
Newspaper and magazine publishers are furious that they were excluded from the last round of cross-party talks involving Labour leader Ed Miliband, Clegg, representatives from Hacked Off and Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin.
"There have been a huge number of meetings with the press," Clegg said on his weekly radio phone-in on LBC 97.3.
"The last meeting on that Sunday night only dealt with one tiny, tiny, tiny bit of the whole jigsaw, which is how you define something called 'exemplary damages'. All the rest of it was already agreed.
"If this was this great papal conclave where everything was resolved from top to bottom, then of course everybody should be there – or frankly nobody should be there, neither the press nor Hacked Off."
Clegg dismissed criticism of the proposals as a threat to press freedom.
"I think people have reacted in some senses in a slightly melodramatic fashion to this. The model of Leveson which is what we are absolutely sticking to is self-regulation of the press," he said.
"I know the kind of caricature – this is something which is being imposed in a deeply illiberal way on the press. I don't think, if you look at it fairly, that is the case."