Newspaper Society resists financial reporting curbs

The Newspaper Society has condemned House of Commons proposals to place restrictions on financial reporting, describing them as “a wholly unjustifiable intrusion into the freedom of the press”.

The Treasury Committee is conducting an investigation into the banking crisis and said it will be examining “the role of the media in financial stability and whether journalists should operate under any form of reporting restrictions during banking crises”.

In a submission to that inquiry, the NS argued the proposals were an infringement of Article 10 rights to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act 1998.

It also said restrictions were unnecessary as the media already applied its own self-regulatory codes, including the PCC Editors’ Code, BBC editorial guidelines and the Ofcom broadcasting code.

The organisation said press freedom had to be defended “even where such publication is unwelcome, awkward or alarming”, particularly in cases such as the banking crisis.

“The freedom to report and to comment on current affairs… is a cornerstone of democracy and a vital bulwark of civil liberty,” the NS said.

The group asked whether a change in the regulations would lead to an eventual ban on all forms of “bad news” and noted that “the media have the responsibility at times to act as the public’s ‘watchdog’ and to sound the alarm”.

The Periodical Publishers Association has also criticised the Treasury Committee’s recommendations.

In its submission to the committee, PPA chief executive Jonathan Shephard argued that a free press was essential to society.

He highlighted the dangers of curtailing press freedom, adding: “Restrictions on financial reporting could easily restrict those comments and views which, with hindsight, turn out to be correct.”

The Newspaper Society also said that it was not the media’s responsibility to “safeguard financial stability”.

“The role of the media is simply to accurately report news and events,” it said. “It also has the right to comment and criticise, as does any other citizen.”

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