Following the MPs’ expenses scandal British parliamentarians must be among the most uncorrupt politicians in the world – with every last penny of their expenditure now accounted for.
My hope is that the phone-hacking scandal – which has been journalism’s equivalent – leads to a similar renewal of ethical standards in the press.
Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken to journalists from all over the world who have been shocked by the goings-on exposed by The Guardian.
It seems that British journalism has gone from being amongst the most admired in the world – to being the most disdained.
Over the next weeks and months Press Gazette will try to foster a debate about how journalism ethics and regulation can be improved in the wake of hacking.
Personally I’d like to see some red lines enshrined in journalists’ contracts across which they cannot cross. So, a bit like doctors, we all make a commitment not to wilfully mislead our readers/viewers and not to use deception unless there is a clear public interest.
This could protect journalists themselves from the sort of pressure that those who worked at the News of the World evidently came under.
As part of this debate Press Gazette has launched a petition: Journalists for Freedom and Fairness.
The idea is that the vast majority of honest journalists should not be punished for the actions of a few bent tabloid hacks with some knee-jerk legislation. At the same time it is also a recognition that professional ethics is something that journalists need to take more seriously.
So far well over 100 individuals have backed Journalists for Freedom and Fairness including: Reader’s Digest editor Gill Hudson, Cavendish Press news agency boss Jon Harris, Kent Messenger editor Denise Eaton, Bolton News editor Ian Savage and Simon O’Neill, editor of the Oxford Mail.
To add your name to this petition – which will be sent to the Leveson Inquiry and to the Government – please fill in the form at the end of this post.
Journalists for Freedom and Fairness Petition
The vast majority of Britain’s journalists work hard to tell their readers the truth under increasingly tough conditions.
We deplore the actions of journalists who have intercepted mobile phone messages. And we condemn any journalist who has breached the trust of their readers/viewers by being involved in corrupt practices.
As journalists, we believe in free speech and a robust free press and media. We also believe we have an overall duty to serve the public interest and the common good.
The press should be fearless, exciting, entertaining, waspish, commercial and competitive.
At the same time journalistic integrity must be respected, encouraged and protected from political, commercial and other pressures.
Any reforms to press regulation should seek to strengthen the ability of journalists to report the news without fear or favour – and not further weaken it.