THE BLOG

Draft Editorial For 'The Hacking Gazette' - The In-House Magazine For All Non-Resident Billionaire UK Newspaper Providers

09/01/2017 16:48 GMT | Updated 09/01/2017 18:34 GMT
Clemens Bilan via Getty Images

COMING CLEAN: A TRUTHFUL CORRECTION

This magazine, in common with other publications like the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Sunday Times, the Telegraph, the Express and the Daily Star and many local newspapers (mostly owned by multi-million pound parent companies, who lobby alongside us) knowingly misreported the law known as 'Section 40' currently subject to a new consultation by our good friends the Tory government.

To be specific, we mendaciously referred to it as a "threat to press freedom", "dangerous lunacy", and "a plot to stop you reading the truth", and used several other utterly ridiculous and absurd descriptions of Section 40.

Worse, we carefully failed to mention that this provision is in reality a way of guaranteeing access to justice for victims whom we might have libelled or harassed or whose privacy we have breached, but who at present CANNOT AFFORD to take us to court.

So we also carefully hid the fact that Section 40 is intended to provide an incentive for publishers to agree to inexpensive and fair arbitration for such victims. Thereby publishers are offered a financial incentive to join an independent and fair regulator (i.e. not one set up, organised, controlled and financed by ourselves, like Ipso).

We regret that we failed to mention all this information about Section 40, especially as Section 40 is supported by the majority of our readers.

So naturally we gave a biased and distorted description of how the provision works. For example, we correctly stated that if someone took us to court we would be forced to pay their legal costs, win or lose... BUT... we then deceitfully failed to point out that this would happen ONLY IF we refused to provide the claimant with quick low-cost independent arbitration in the first place. By refusing this, we can force victims into the courts, which the vast majority of them cannot afford. Wrong morally, but bloody clever.

We also happily plead guilty to cherry-picking and 'distorting' evidence.

For example, we reported the Sunday Times' claim that it would never have published the Lance Armstrong investigation under Section 40, but failed to make the obvious point, that if the Sunday Times had signed up to an independent regulator, it would have been protected against excessive legal costs from the outset.

We also inaccurately reported that the Leveson inquiry cost £50million. This was untrue. It cost 10% of that. We took this £50million number from the thoroughly biased consultation document which our friends the Tory government put out.

Of course, we publishers have always claimed that our main role as the press is to scrutinise the statements of those in power, but naturally this ethical principle does not apply if we are the ones with the power. As, of course, are our good friends the Tory government who want to help us in our opposition to Section 40, as they need our support at election time.

We have also been completely silent about the justification for Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry, which is poised to investigate the new evidence of the scale of press phone hacking, how it has so far been covered up and other matters concerning corporate press corruption, and of course police corruption.

Finally, we want to apologise for any distress caused by ignoring thousands of victims of phone hacking, libel, intrusion and harassment, the families of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster, the family of the murdered Daniel Morgan, Parliament and public, and the few brave whistle-blowers from within the press industry itself.

To sum up, we now accept that we should have made it clear that most journalists, and most of our readers, support the commencement of Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry without delay, even if we proprietors would greatly prefer to sweep police corruption and our own corporate misfeasance under the carpet - all in the name of "THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS to do whatever we sodding well like."

We are happy to make this correction in small print on an inside page (and, if we can get away with it, upside down and in Finnish) but we make no apology (because our press-controlled regulator, Ipso, has no power to make us do so) for the fact that we continue and will always continue to put our corporate financial interests ahead of those of the public. Newspapers are a business after all.

(Note to subs: Just seen this petition in favour of Leveson here. We don't readers going there and calling for fair regulation, so we'd best print this true stuff backwards in Vietnamese - Ed.)

As dreamed about by John Cleese