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Sign here to protect both the freedom of the press and the integrity of the courts

I meant to write in more detail about the grotesque perversion of natural justice embodied in the proposed Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act earlier, but I was ill so I didn’t. Never mind. Guido Fawkes has covered the essentials here. That link takes you to a post on Guido’s site which contains a petition to the government. If you are from the UK, please consider signing it.

For an explanation of why I say that, see this from Michael Gove in the Times:

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is considering whether or not to implement section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and the period of consultation ends next week. If implemented, section 40 would require newspapers either to register with an approved regulator or face active discrimination in the courts.

The one regulator the government has so far approved, Impress, is funded largely by the former Formula One boss Max Mosley, a determined campaigner for restrictions on the press ever since a Sunday tabloid published disobliging details about his private life. Mr Mosley has assembled a team to run Impress who could never be mistaken for carefree libertarians.

Three of his board members support a campaign to starve The Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail of advertising revenue. One board member has expressed his sadness that the Mail cannot just be banned, and the CEO of the organisation has shared social media posts comparing the Mail to Nazi newspapers and has decried its work as fascist. One does not have to admire every aspect of the Mail to recognise that its crusading journalism played a huge part in bringing the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice. Nazi newspapers tend not to be big on opposing racist violence.

Gove too right wing for you? Try this article from the left-liberal David Aaronovitch in the same paper, which I quoted in this Samizdata post and unapologetically quote again:

Which brings me to the most important thing being considered by Ms Bradley. It goes by the tedious name of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and is something that can be invoked, or not, by the government. It is, in essence, the stick that could be used to get newspapers and publications to sign up to the new state-approved press regulator, Impress.

What it says is that any publication not agreeing to be regulated by Impress will be subject to the costs of a legal action — even where it wins. Really. That’s what it says. Call the next Lance Armstrong a drugs cheat and even if he loses the case it will cost you hundreds of thousands. Well, no one in those circumstances would take the risk of running the story. These are not days in which newspapers make much if any money and the fastest way to bankruptcy would be to fall foul of Section 40.

Perhaps you are inclined to oppose the views of anyone writing for one of the Murdoch papers? Then read this piece and this follow-up from Roy Greenslade in the Guardian. There is no paywall at the G, so I will just link rather than quote any more than this:

In so doing, its [the lobby group Hacked Off] ideologues have placed their faith in the political establishment. They believe the charter is safe in the hands of MPs and peers and that the conditions that might lead to it being altered are highly unlikely.

But my lack of respect for what they call the media establishment (which, incidentally, is itself a mythical construct) is nothing like as great as my lack of respect for the so-called political establishment.

Added later: The Daily Mirror is another left wing paper opposing this measure: Do you want to gag the truth? Why new law will silence the free press.

In too much of a hurry to read all that? Guido’s earlier posts on this topic provide a quickie crash course. Here are enough to be going on with: (1), (2), (3), (4).

One last point. Quite apart from the danger to the freedom of the press, Section 40 would also set a precedent for using the attribution of court costs as a political instrument to apply pressure on bodies and individuals to do the government’s will. That corrupts the justice system itself.

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26 comments to Sign here to protect both the freedom of the press and the integrity of the courts

  • bobby b

    Over here in the U.S.A., the Democrats running the Senate voted to end the filibuster for most purposes, thus allowing for the passage of legislation with fifty-one out of one hundred votes instead of the sixty out of one hundred required to end a filibuster.

    With this move, they effectively disarmed any Republican opposition to Democrat legislation.

    It was a smart move, so long as they remained in power. Now they’re out of power, and their regret is keen.

    It will be equally fun to watch when The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, under new management at some point, chooses a new batch of approved regulators.

    Oh, the weeping and wailing will be fearsome!

  • Cal Ford

    “It will be equally fun to watch when The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, under new management at some point, chooses a new batch of approved regulators.”

    In theory, yes. In practise… let’s just say I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. (Remember, what is happening at the moment is all happening under a Tory government.)

  • Tomsmith

    Link to place to sign?

    [I have now amended the post to make it clearer the link one should click on in order to sign – NS]

  • bobby b

    “(Remember, what is happening at the moment is all happening under a Tory government.)”

    Well, I wondered about that . . .

  • Stonyground

    Follow the link to Guido’s article, the petition is there.

    I’ve signed, only a couple of thousand have so far.

  • Ian

    I support the effort, of course, just not sure I would do this via a web-form that (contrary to what it says on Guido’s site) allows 89up to sell the data: http://repealsection40.org/privacy-policy

  • Mr Ecks

    I post this link as it also seems to represent a danger to free speech and to blogs and commentators.

    If you could give this some publicity Perry it might be a good thing:



  • Fred Z

    Oh well, at least it would enable us to destroy the Guardian.

    Silver linings everywhere.

  • CaptDMO

    “…the (information? Entertainent?)media establishment (which, incidentally, is itself a mythical construct)”
    In My Humble Opinion…
    In the US, demonstrably not so much “myth”.
    Jurno-List has simply changed their name, and third tier plagiarists have been bestowed “Awards”… for attendance and participation.

  • Fred Z, the Guardian has no doubt much to fear from this but less I suspect than the Mail. “One board member has expressed his sadness that the Mail cannot just be banned.” I’m guessing none have actually expressed the same thought about the Guardian. (But it has an article opposed to this, so good for that.) Low though my opinion is of the average Guardian reader – in large part because I suspect they’re less opposed than their paper -its death would be no silver lining to me.

    (I appreciate you’re probably just joking.)

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    The Guardian and the Mail are both vile, but they both have a perfect right to exist.

  • NickM

    The whole point is the very existence of a “Department of Culture, Media and Sports”. We are a nation that had the first newspapers, that had Shakespeare and invented football and none of that with a department.

  • John Galt III

    “The Department of Media, Culture and Sport”

    I really thought that was a joke.

  • John Galt III


    You invented soccer. The US invented football.

  • NickM

    JG III,
    You clearly haven’t read the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s “Unseen Academicals”. For shame!

  • Richard Thomas

    One might suggest that if this is a realistic threat, traditional media has already failed.

    (Though, in fairness, this statement is a bit of a cheat as we already know they’ve failed.)

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b – in Britain the left control such bodies (whoever wins elections). The left need not fear that such a body will ever be used against them – not in Britain.

    Basic principles of natural justice reject these evil violations of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. But the British establishment has long rejected the very idea of principles of natural justice. Parliament can do anything it likes “Blackstone said so” (thus casting Chief Justice Sir Edmund Coke and Chief Justice Sir John Hold to the dustbin).

    And the only test is “happiness” – the greatest happiness of the greatest number (as Jeremy Bentham put it) to be decided by the “enlightened” elite – in a Francis “New Atlantis” Bacon way.

    Principles putting hard limits on government power? Oh dear me no – that is very reactionary.

    Freedom of Speech? That might lead to “hate speech” – the “incitement of racial hatred” and so on.

    Freedom of the Press? But what if some of the press have “reactionary” opinions against “diversity” and “social justice”?

    One can not have that.

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    American football is a Canadian import.


  • Paul Marks

    Of course Clause 40 is designed to make newspapers sign up for the “code” and the “regulator”.

    Even if one proves that one has told the truth one has to pay the costs of those who have brought the libel action.

    That means some Nazi degenerate such as “Sir Max” Moseley (go on sue me you swine, if you can drag yourself away from your whores in their Nazi uniforms – I am a “straw man” financially, so your corrupt judges are no threat to me) can send a thousand stooges (“Hacked Off” filth – the alliance of the Nazis and the Communists like the Pact of 1939) to bankrupt any publication he does not like. And so can anyone else send a thousand stooges to bankrupt any publication that does not sign up for the measure.

    And who gave him this power? Mr David Cameron did – by giving in to the campaign.

    “A person employed by the News of the World has hacked a dead girls’ mobile phone” (which was already illegal) “and it deleted messages” (actually they did NOT delete messages) – “therefore we must censor the press”.

    What sort of person thinks that this “therefore” applies?

    Weakness, cowardice – and lack of any real principles.

  • bobby b

    American rugby came from Canada. Canadian football came from America.


  • NickM

    Oddly enough – and I could be wrong here – I am given to understand the first international match of any form was between the USA and Canada and it was cricket.

  • NickM

    I hate the term “elite”. In what sense are they “elite”? In what sense does having a degree in freakonomics from LSE make you “elite”? The SAS are elite. Arseholes with (anti)social science degrees are not. Col David Stirling was elite. Polly Toynbee less so.

  • PeterT

    How did it go so wrong in the UK? Once the handmaiden of liberty and limited government, to this. How did the Whigs lose so badly?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    January 9, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    I hate the term “elite”. In what sense are they “elite”? In what sense does having a degree in freakonomics from LSE make you “elite”? The SAS are elite. Arseholes with (anti)social science degrees are not. Col David Stirling was elite. Polly Toynbee less so.

    Since my position is that Progressives are better called “Left Puritans”, I prefer “Elect” to “elite”.

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