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  1. Media Law
March 1, 2017

Sir Harold Evans: FT, Guardian and others should sign up to Impress – objections to arbitration are ‘spurious’

By Dominic Ponsford

Former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans has outlined in more detail why he supports Royal Charter-backed press regulator Impress.

He has also said he supports Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, the law which says publishers who aren’t signed up to a Royal Charter-backed press regulator should pay both sides’ costs in libel and privacy cases win or lose.

The vast majority of UK newspaper publishers have rejected both Section 40 and Impress claiming they are a threat to press freedom. The Government is currently mulling whether to enact Section 40, or repeal it.

Evans told Impress, at a lunch in his honour yesterday: “Somebody taking up investigative journalism can look to Impress as a resource for dealing with vexatious defamation actions that are trying to get them silenced, which happens because of the system of awarding costs.

“The mass of publications, including those who are standing on the fringes, like the Financial Times and The Guardian, ought to be members of Impress.

“All investigative journalism is risky because it invites retaliation and suppression. For defence, you have to go to the law, which is costly, especially when you’re fighting a major corporation.

“Arbitration is actually the solution to many of the problems. If you have a system of arbitration, which is what Impress introduces, you get a much clearer, more honest way of resolving the differences.

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“It gets turned back on us by those saying ‘why should anybody who wins in court have to pay the costs of the other side?’ Well, it’s because they refused arbitration earlier.

“It’s a spurious objection really: somebody who doesn’t want to hear the evidence against them doesn’t strike me as a person dedicated to the truth.”

Evans also gave an interview to Press Gazette yesterday in which he attacked Google, Facebook and press coverage of Brexit.

MPs on the Media, Culture and Sport Committee said last month that newspapers regulated by IPSO could be protected from Section 40 if the regulator adopted low-cost arbitration and complied with the other Leveson recommendations.

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