The film maker and Labour nobleman, David Puttnam, has written this article: Press regulation: the royal charter deal is a move towards a better democracy. He says,
I believe there is a need to totally re-evaluate the way we look at the relationship between the media and democracy. Over the past decade or so, a great deal of thinking has developed around the notion of “a duty of care” – as it relates to a number of aspects of civil society. This has principally focused on obvious areas, such as our empathetic response to the elderly and infirm, to children and young people, to our service personnel. It has seldom, if ever, extended to equally important arguments around the fragility of democracy itself: to the notion that honesty, accuracy and impartiality are fundamental to the process of building and embedding informed, participatory societies. I believe our developing concept of a duty of care should be extended to “a care” for our shared but fragile democratic values.
If “duty of care” really were nothing but a “notion”, this would still be mildly sinister. But “duty of care” is not just a notion, it is a legal notion. He wants to make it possible to sue a writer for threatening democratic values. Specifically, he wants to make it a tort.
Do you think that I exaggerate; that this proposed “duty” was no more than Puttnam advocating a moral course of action and perhaps using the legal phrase as a metaphor? Then read the next paragraph. In it, he makes it clear he is indeed thinking of legal penalties for failing to fulfil this “duty”:
After all, the absence of a duty of care within many professions can amount to accusations of negligence, and that being the case, are we really comfortable with the thought that we are being, in effect, negligent in regard to the long-term health of our own democracies, and the values that underpin them?
Baron David Puttnam is very comfortable with the thought that he and those like him will be able to suppress views that promote values he does not like.
UPDATE: A just comment from Laird:
It strikes me that Puttnam should be the first to be sued under his proposed law. After all, the ability to offer and discuss unpopular and controversial ideas is the epitome of “democratic values”. His proposal is clearly negligent, even threatening, toward those values, and is itself grossly negligent toward the long-term health of the democracy he purports to champion. That way lies fascism.