Lord Justice Leveson today paid tribute to Sunday Times foreign correspondent Marie Colvin, who was killed during a shell attack in the Syrian city of Homs last week.
Speaking at the start of the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, which will examine the relationship between journalists and the police, he also praised the work of Sunday Times photographer Paul Controy, who was injured during the attack and remains trapped in the city.
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‘There is no better example of the very best in journalism than that provided by Marie Colvin, whose determination to illuminate events in the most dangerous corners of the world, whose life, body of work and the ultimate sacrifice that she made in doing so, all serve to underline the need to preserve and protect free speech and a free press,’he said.
‘To say that she was a fine reporter does not do justice to the tribute that she is owed and which I am very pleased to acknowledge. It is particularly apposite to do so during the course of this inquiry.”
He added: ‘As we’ve also talked about the work of photographers, it’s right to reflect on the plight of Paul Conroy and others who behind the camera represent the unseen face of this vital reporting.
‘In the light of recent publicly expressed concerns to the contrary, I am very happy, yet again, to reassert my commitment to a free press and to freedom of expression.’
But he also warned that while these freedoms are ‘vital entitlements of every one of us’they do no ‘exist in a vacuum”.
He added: ‘When what is published in a newspaper has no remotely arguable public interest, I do not consider that freedom of the press and freedom of speech extends to permitting the interception of mobile telephone messages or invasions privacy or of confidence.”
Leveson also noted that with ‘extremely limited exceptions”, no witnesses that appeared at the first part of the inquiry had suggested the current system of regulation was ‘adequate or sufficient”, while acknowledging that the current system of civil justice was ‘both slow and expensive”.
‘Good practice and the proper operation of the rule of law are the guarantors of a free press not a threat to it,’said Leveson, who also expressed unease about recent criticism of the inquiry, claiming that to publicly express concern about the existence of the inquiry ‘is itself somewhat troubling”.
‘For my part, given the background, I do not believe that the inquiry was or is premature, and I intend to continue to do neither more nor less than was required of me,’he said.