Media MPs' move could end hounding

Journalists can breathe a sigh of relief this week after the influential Commons Media Select committee backed self-regulation – despite the furore earlier this year over the Clive Goodman affair and the hounding of Kate Middleton.

It means that Gordon Brown is less likely to back any further statutory regulation of the press – beyond the already strict privacy, contempt of court and libel laws.

Whatever the shortcomings of the Press Complaints Commission, freedom of the press must be better served if journalists can regulate themselves, rather than having to contend with yet more legal constrictions.

MPs also called for the Editors’ Code to be included in the contracts of all journalists – underlining the fact that it is a rule book not just for editors to follow but for reporters, subs, photographers and all other editorial staff working in print.

Although it is not up to MPs to tell companies how to phrase their employment contracts – that would defeat the whole point of self-regulation – their recommendation should be noted.

The contractual inclusion of the Editors’ Code into all journalists contracts, although already widespread is not yet universal. Such inclusion, in effect, amounts to a sort of “conscience clause”, giving individuals the ultimate back-up if they feel they are being asked to behave unethically.

All journalists should know the code backwards and feel free to refer to it if they fear they are being urged professionally to break it. No employment tribunal in the land would uphold the dismissal of a journalist for following their own professional code of conduct.

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