The idea of the free press is a product of modern democratic systems, and one that such systems purportedly support and aspire to. According to Reporters Without Borders, a French-founded organisation campaigning for freedom of expression and information worldwide, almost half of the world's population is denied this liberty.
There is nothing in any of the proposals aired at the inquiry or in Leveson or in the hubbub since that will make regulatory issues any more tractable than they have been for over the last two decades. Heaven knows, the PCC needed more muscle and more independence. But, there is no half-decent system of press regulation in the world that does not begin with the taking of complaints from the public. Yet Leveson rejected the notion that a complaints-driven system could justify calling itself a regulator.
It is not in the public interest to have a press capable of running riot in the deliberate manufacture of false news which serves the interests of power. It is in the public interest to have a press which the public can hold to account when it fakes news in the interests of power, and which can thus counterbalance its overwhelming dominance by corporate conglomerates.
Media freedom has the power to transform societies and to change the course of history. Over the past year, across the Middle East and North Africa, ordinary citizens found their voices using social media and blogs. But freedom of expression continues to be repressed in many countries and some have seen a significant decline in media freedoms. Around the world, journalists, bloggers and others have been obstructed from doing their work by being harassed, monitored, detained, or subjected to violence.
The existence of the internet means that people will publish what they want when they want to. If we enforce restrictions on what we can publish in this country, people will write online blogs and write for foreign publications. If our most reliable UK sources are choked off, people will be forced to rely on publications that are less reputable, and perhaps even illegal.