EU Group Says Brussels Should Control Press Regulation, Attacks Cameron For Rejecting Leveson

EU Officials 'Should Oversee Press', Committee Urges

A "high level" committee set up by the European Commission to produce proposals for EU-wide regulation of the press has attacked David Cameron for rejecting the Leveson Report.

The High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism, established in October 2011 and chaired by the former president of Latvia, Professor Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, reported back on Monday.

Among the recommendations likely to outrage eurosceptic Tory MPs is that press regulation bodies in individual countries should ultimately answer to Brussels.

"Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status," the report suggests.

"The national media councils should follow a set of European-wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values."

The report is also heavily critical of the prime minister's decision to oppose Lord Justice Leveson's call for the statutory underpinning of independent press regulation in Britain.

"The gross abuses revealed in the Leveson inquiry have led its author to propose much more stringent institutional supervision, where the media would be much more closely monitored, become far more accountable to the public and be subject to heavy fines in the case of infractions," it says.

"That judge Leveson’s recommendations should have been rejected out of hand by some politicians in high office, is not very reassuring. If nothing else, this resistance by itself underscores the urgent need for supervisory bodies that can and do act, instead of being supervisory in name only."

Tory MP Douglas Carswell told the Daily Telegraph the report showed the EU was "incompatibile with the notion of a free society".

“Having EU officials overseeing our free press - and monitoring newspapers to ensure they comply with "European values" - would be quite simply intolerable,” he said.

“This is the sort of mind-set that I would expect to find in Iran, not the West. This kooky idea tells us little about the future of press regulation."

A DCMS spokesperson said: "We have no intention of allowing Europe to regulate the British press. We have been clear that, as set out in the Leveson report, we expect the British press industry to implement tough, independent, self-regulation, in adherence with the Leveson principles.”

European Publishers Council executive director Angela Mills Wade said: “The free and independent press faces deeply challenging times in spite of soaring audiences online but where profits are elusive. In the consultation that now follows we must work together to nurture a truly independent press that promotes democracy and cultural diversity throughout the world."

“We are quite taken aback by some of the report’s recommendations. The EU does not have legal competence under the treaties to harmonise substantive media laws such as defamation. Any notion of harmonised rules of the game, monitored by the EU, is anathema to press freedom – the very thing the group was tasked to protect.”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the European plan was "a flagrant attack on press freedom by the European Commission".

"To think that unelected bureacrats in Brussels want the power to ultimately fine and suspend journalists is just outrageous," he said.

"National governments and the EU should stay out of media control. Regulation is something the media can well do themselves. With this new grab for EU regulation of the national media supervisors, it really is becoming like Orwell's 1984. Commisioner Neelie Kroes wants to send out the the thought police. Well, don't let her succeed. Politicians always want to control the media but it is something which should always be resisted."

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