Ten myths about press abuse

The News Of The World Newspaper Closes After 168 Years Following The Phone Hacking AllegationsPosted: November 21, 2012 at 8:39 am

Adapted from Hugh Grant’s Leveson witness statement

Myth 1 – Only celebrities and politicians suffer at the hands of popular papers.

To an extent, we already know how false this is. There are victims like the Dowlers, like the families of the little girls murdered at Soham, like the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, like the victims of the London bombings. They were all identified as capable of making a commercial profit for certain newspapers, and therefore had their privacy invaded.

Then there are the innocent people whose privacy has been stolen simply because they are related to, or work with subjects of commercial interest to some papers. In others words, collateral damage. The mothers and fathers and children of hacking victims who also had their phones hacked, or who were door-stepped. Or the children who face humiliation in the playground because their father is a footballer whose privacy a paper has stolen, most often not in the public interest, but for profit.

And what about the innocent citizens caught up in the periphery of a newsworthy crime and shamelessly monstered by some British papers? What about Christopher Jefferies, the innocent landlord of the murdered Joanna Yeates? Or Robert Murat, to this day receiving death threats with regard to the abduction of Madeleine McCann, a crime of which he is entirely innocent? Or more recently Rebecca Leighton, effectively found guilty in certain papers of mass murder before being judged by the police to be entirely innocent? The common factor in all these cases? Money.The stirring up of public outrage, at the expense of the individuals’ rights, while potentially jeopardising real justice, simply sold newspapers.

And even though the papers admit guilt and are made to pay fines by the courts, as in all three of these cases, they keep doing it because the business model still shows a profit.

Myth 2 – Egregious abuses of privacy happened only at the News of the World.

This is like that paper’s old defence of “one rogue reporter”. And just as that has been shown to be false so, I am confident, will this. The Information Commissioner’s report in 2006 listed 32 newspapers and magazines that had used Steve Whittamore and his illegal dark arts. Dark arts that included blagging and bribing, among others, phone companies and the DVLA. I would also of course point to the words of Paul McMullan when I secretly recorded him. He also concedes that phone hacking wasn’t just at the News of the World.

Myth 3 – In attempting to deal with the abuses of some sections of the press you risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I argue that it is not hard for any normal person to distinguish between what is a baby and what is bathwater. In this case, the baby is public interest journalism, of which we are lucky to have some of the best in the world. The bathwater, meanwhile, is not really journalism at all any more, though it once was. It now has at its core a different business model. That model, hiding behind a fig leaf of a little journalism, is the appropriation, usually by criminal means, of British citizens’ fundamental human right of privacy. This is done not in the public interest, but for commercial gain. Its methods include elements of theft, intimidation, blackmail and extortion. Its victims are often vulnerable.

There may be grey areas between these two, but I argue that they are nothing like as grey or as extensive as they are cracked up to be. And that most muddying of the waters between the two is a deliberate strategy on the part of the privacy invasion industry.

I say, given that identifying baby and bathwater is not that hard, that we should just take the baby out of the bath. Or rather, I believe the baby is now quite big enough to get out of the bath itself. Why have good journalists agreed for so long to protect the racketeers in their midst? Why have they gone along with the omerta? Why did the exposure of the phone hacking scandal come down to the New York Times, and to the bravery of one UK newspaper and its editor? I would argue that the main reason is the same as the reason for everyone else’s silence on this subject for so long. Fear.

Myth 4 – Any attempt to regulate the press means we are heading for Zimbabwe.

First of all it is important to distinguish between the people who genuinely care about press freedom, and those who weep crocodile tears, whose only real concern is the preservation of their lucrative privacy invading business model.

Then I would say this. That of course it would be preferable for the press to be self regulating effectively. But the plain fact is that self-regulation has failed. Failed to prevent phone hacking and other forms of intrusion, failed to protect vulnerable people from press abuse. No one seriously denies this now. I note that even Paul Dacre has started talking about ombudsmen.

That to characterise the argument as one between a free press at one end of the scale, and Zimbabwe at the other is simplistic, or irresponsible, or (most often) self-serving. There are, of course, many gradations in between those two poles.

That it is absurd to label anyone who believes in protecting citizens against the worst abuses of certain newsrooms as a “muzzler” of the press. To me, freedom of the press is just as important as the freedom of individuals to enjoy an expectation of privacy. I am, for instance, very supportive of those who want to protect free speech via reform of our libel laws.

That every other important industry in this country that has the power to wreck other people’s lives is regulated by more than itself. And our press is often loud (and often right) in its calls for many of those regulations to be tighter. The only truly powerful industry in this country still regulated by itself is the press. Why? Broadcast journalism has been subject to regulation from the start. Our TV news is excellent. And at the House of Lords Committee the BBC (Panorama), Channel 4 and ITV gave evidence. As did John Ware and Ray Fitzwalter, both highly respected and long-standing investigative journalists. All, without exception, were clear that the statutory codes and compliance obligations of the TV regulators did not interfere with their ability to carry out watchdog journalism in the public interest.

Myth 5 – Current privacy law under the Human Rights Act muzzles the press.

If this were so, why has a civil case for breach of privacy never been taken against the Guardian?

Why do popular papers’ lawyers so seldom even bother to turn up to argue a public interest defence in front of the judge when one of their stories has been injuncted at the eleventh hour? Or indeed in the cold light of next day? Is it because there IS no public interest defence? And if that is so, why do their editorials rail so loudly against so called abuses of these injunctions? Misnaming them as “super-injunctions” when they are merely anonymised to fulfil their purpose? Calling them “undemocratic”, “backdoor” or “muzzling”? Is it perhaps not about press freedom or public interest at all? Are these editorials merely about protecting a business model? A lucrative racket?

Who would we rather decide what was in the public interest and what was merely interesting to the public? Judges? Or the editor of the paper standing to profit from the article in question?

Myth 6 – Judges always find against the press.

Have the judges in the injunction cases relating to personal privacy thus far made many egregious errors? I would argue that they haven’t. And that neither have they shown a natural bias one way or the other. The recent case of Rio Ferdinand showed that the judges in these cases will rule for the paper if they feel (rightly or wrongly) that there is a public interest defence.

Myth 7 – Privacy can only ever be a rich man’s toy.

One of the objections most often (sometimes correctly) cited against privacy law is that it is expensive to take out an injunction, denying access to justice for people without substantial means. But then why do so many of the popular papers who complain about this also campaign so loudly for the abolition of Conditional Fee Arrangements? Is it that this privacy law is seriously threatening their business model? And that in fact the fewer people that have access to it the better? Particularly as those people who can afford access can then be dismissed as wealthy and privileged?

There may well be a problem with access to justice for those without means who wish to defend their privacy rights. The answer is to improve the access not to abolish the justice.

Myth 8 – That most sex exposes carry a public interest defence.

If a politician campaigns on issues like family values, and he is caught having an extra marital affair, then of course it is right for a newspaper to tell the public.

If the England football manager has deemed that the England football captain should be a person of traditional moral virtue, and that same footballer has claimed that he is a “changed person”, then you might argue (as the judge did recently) that it is in the public interest to know about his affairs.

But it seems clear to me, as it does to most judges, that the vast majority of the public interest defences from popular papers for their sex exposes are bogus. The judges recognise that the motive for printing the story was commercial profit, not public interest.

Those papers will argue that Ryan Giggs has traded on his reputation as a faithful family man. In fact, he hasn’t particularly. And even if he had it is absurd to think that people are buying Ryan Giggs football boots because of his moral probity. They are buying them because he’s a brilliant footballer. (And this is to leave aside questions of the rights of some newspapers to be moral arbiters. How is their moral conscience? Was there anything more comical or grotesque, for instance, than the News of the World, thundering about people’s “sordid secrets”?)

Some disagree with me, but I would also question most sex exposes of politicians. Unless, as I say, the politician has been elected on the platform of traditional family values, or has publicly criticised or legislated against the private sexual conduct of other people, or is breaking the law or harming anyone. I don’t believe that knowing the intimate details of his or her sex life is in the public interest. Some of history’s greatest leaders have had colourful sex lives.

Myth 9 – People like me want to be in the papers, and need them, and therefore our objections to privacy intrusions are hypocritical.

First of all, for most people I know who are branded “celebrities”, the celebrity was not the end it itself. Those people do exist, but I would argue that they are in the minority. Most so-called “celebrities” are just people who happened to become singers, or actors, or footballers, or whatever, and then also happened – through luck sometimes, but also sometimes hard work or talent – to become successful.

In my experience they seldom want to be in the papers for the sake of it, to promote themselves. In many cases they hate having to be in them at all. The issue only arises when they have something – a film for example – to promote, when there is a certain pressure to bang the drum a bit in advance of the release. Occasionally this pressure is contractual, but much more often it is simply moral. Typically, the “project” will have involved many people working very hard over long periods of time. And often large amounts of money have been staked. You would simply feel bad if you didn’t do a bit of PR.

But having said that, it is important to realise how insignificant, in relative terms, PR is to the success or failure of a project. To take films as an example, the most important factor by far is simply whether it works as an entertainment. That’s about 85% of it. The marketing and release strategy might be another 10%. PR is merely the cherry on the cake. The final 5%. There have been thousands of examples of films with enormous media attention, wall to wall tabloid coverage, that have gone on to fail at the box office.

So if PR is the final, small cherry, how big a part of that cherry is print media? These days, it is considered far less important than TV and radio. Take a film I acted in – “Love Actually”. When it came time to organise a press campaign, the ensemble cast nearly all followed my lead in choosing not to give interviews to the UK tabloids. (Most seldom or never did anyway). The film went on to be a huge success, particularly in the UK. I point all this out merely to counter the arguments of certain papers that they make or break films, or actors, who therefore have no right to complain about any abuses.

The only significant argument that can be made for including tabloid papers in a PR campaign these days, is the risk of incurring their wrath by excluding them. Hell hath no fury like a tabloid not invited to a press junket or excluded from premiere party. And so we are back to fear again.

It is also very important to remember that when a person DOES do an interview with a paper or magazine they are doing it by consent. It’s a form of barter. The paper gets what it hopes will be a boost in sales, and the person gets what he hopes will be some helpful noise about his forthcoming project. It is like bartering 12 eggs for a bale of hay. Or like me selling you a pint of milk for 50p. When the deal is done, it’s done. You wouldn’t then say, “You sold me your milk, you slut. I’m now entitled to help myself to your milk for ever afterwards”.

Finally on this subject I should say that I have never in my life “tipped off” the press in the hope of being photographed. I concede that this may happen with a certain type of person who enjoys media attention, or – as is now possible – whose principal source of income is celebrity itself rather than the job that gave rise to that celebrity in the first place. But the behaviour of one person or a group of people does not mean it should be open season on another group of people. And in my experience, the tipping off of the papers is exceptionally rare. I wondered if I was wrong or naive about this, and recently asked ex-Daily Star reporter Richard Papiatt what his experience had been. He confirmed that I was right. In my opinion the oft-repeated arguments from popular papers’ editors about the hypocrisy of celebrities who secretly court the media is largely specious. And, of course, convenient.

Myth 10 – The tabloid press hacks are just loveable rogues.

Perhaps they once were. Perhaps a few still are. But I see an awful lot of self glamorising going on, self mythologising. I don’t regard the people who tapped Milly Dowler’s phone, or ordered the tapping, or allowed it to happen, or covered it up, as lovable rogues. I see them as cowards and bullies. I see them as people who have lived above the law for so long that they have started to believe their own propaganda. Power truly does tend to corrupt.

81 comments

  1. Edel Sunde Hinse - reply

    Very well written..!
    Thanks for informative explanations…..it is (at least for me as foreigner…) not always easy to understand áll the information and allegations,going back and forward….
    When I read british papers,it is mostly ,negative,….and then about almost everything,whatever subject; if it is about a celeb,politicians whoever…..and how SAD is that….why should we only want to read negative and shit things about whatever?? It does not bring us anywhere..!!
    I should wish for a Free press, with a moral and ,educated, way of Writing…. Keep up your good spirit there at the Hacked Off, you are doing a great job!
    Best regards
    Edel Sunde Hinse in Holland

  2. antigoni - reply

    good article

  3. Katherine Polson - reply

    A powerful argument against the stupid Press position about an attack on free speech might be this. I am a solicitor and am regulated by a governing body (The Law Society) which has powers given to it by statute. I am an officer of the court because I am a solicitor and the court system is overseen by the Ministry of Justice/Home Office etc. Is anyone daft enough to suggest that the Courts and all lawyers are government controlled just because of this? No, it is simply a way of protecting the public from dodgy lawyers and striking them off. I don’t see the argument the Press barons are advancing at all.

  4. David. Clarke - reply

    Well done Hugh Grant
    And the team

    Enjoyed the channel 4. Programm

    How can I help. Not much money ,however can give time for the cause

  5. Omt - reply

    Thank you for having the energy to keep going. Brilliant programme on Channel 4 this evening. Looking forward to seeing Leveson tomorrow.

  6. Andre James - reply

    Although I’m married to a journalist my sense of justice and my soul is with the Hacked Off campaign. It’s uncomplicated at its core.
    For the sake of selling more papers/ making more money, often morals and decency are sacrificed and people have their privacy and elements of their lives taken to places they would not choose to go. The negative effect, not only on them but their loved ones, is not justified, it is often not “in the public interest” in the purest sense of the phrase and reflects a society and culture that has lost its way.
    I love the idea of the press being able to effectively bring down a corrupt president (a la Woodward and Bernstein) and I would hate to see the prospect of that not being able to happen again, however, I don’t think that would be a result of valid and real scrutiny. What it would deal with, and it is long overdue, would be the vile persecution of people with no basis and often no facts while hiding behind the falsely stated “public interest”.

    • BB - reply

      I agree with Andre. The press has definitely lost its way. I feel that the driving force for many tabloids is profit by any means possible, by whatever means they can get away with. They have shown a complete disregard for their own morals never mind for those who suffer the consequences of their so called free press. How some of these tabloids pass for journalism beggers belief and how they can pass off the drivel they write about as in the public interest (unless of course you count voyeurism as in the public interest) beats me. Why can’t these papers focus on real issues that really matter.

      A free press needs to be a responsible press that exists to monitor the powers that be, to expose any excess of the powers that be and to inform and educate its readers about what is going on in the world, without any bias. Now how many could you accuse of being that?

      As things stand our so called free press is anything but free (political affiliations etc. etc.) and in many cases not responsible as has been born out by its past behaviour. A responsible press will not object to proper careful regulation, it cannot regulate itself because of vested interest. Unfortunately there are those who will not act in a responsible manner unless there is a law that will make them. This can be seen from the fact that as things stand people can sue the press at the moment and get redress and the papers are fully aware that when they run certain stories, many times based on dubious reporting, that they will probably get sued but they go ahead anyway because they work out that in spite of this they will still make profit. I feel that this is unethical at the very least. If this can be stamped out surly it would be a good thing. Then maybe we would end up with a free press that fulfils the role it was designed to do. Responsible journalism has nothing to fear.

  7. Elaine Decoulos - reply

    I’m in total agreement and grateful that Hugh Grant has been willing to speak out for the rest of us ‘stitched up by the British press’ who don’t have a voice. It’s a pity Hacked Off didn’t have the courage to include me in their lists of victims, nor Lord Justice Leveson in letting me become a Core Participant. Too many prominent people’s reputations are on the line, including some who worked in The Royal Courts of Justice.

    • hilary reeves - reply

      hi, i have not heard of your case, but will now read you. I have a similar situation with the press industry, but to a much higher degree than most. I am completely hacked off, and berried. If that rings a bell, please contact me. I would like to discuss this matter with you.

  8. Clare McFadden - reply

    very well thought out and well written. I am suitably impressed. the thing that concerns me about all this is the TV channels that knew what was happening before ANYONE else in the world (sky news being the biggest offender!)

  9. Marcus - reply

    Mr Grant, along with a all involved at Hacked off…you are doing an exceptional task…under difficult circumstances, here’s too Closure, for all…! The families, the victims, the harmed.
    The truth does indeed set you free…no one ever was criticised for telling the truth…but few have ever told it…good news may finally sell.

  10. Marcia - reply

    It is so refreshing to hear that someone cares. Over the years the press has brainwash us all to thinking it right to allow innocent people to treated in a disgraceful way.

    I hope this will be the day we return to proper honest reporting

    Thank you

  11. Teddy Michaels - reply

    Very well said and very very well written.
    The courage and conviction you have displayed during this whole affair are admirable.

    Unfortunately, there is one point you chose not to make: that it is our collective failure that these practices have become so popular (and so vicious). If fewer people bought and read these “stories” then they would have been stopped a long time ago.

    But we are taking the first crucial baby steps in the right direction, and part of that is thanks to you.
    Thank you, and good luck to us all.

  12. Madonna - reply

    Interesting viewpoint Hugh from first hand experience. In general I like the work the press do for the most part, they do more good than harm over all I think (in Australia).
    However, there are groups of paparazzi who would make anyone feel like they’re caught in a shark feeding frenzy. Princess Diana, yourself,the Duchess of Cambridge recently was a despicable act, I was horrified and would have liked to see criminal charges laid.
    The consumer has the power not to buy magazines that include images from ill gotten gain. I think it’s unethical to publish without permission. This is an ongoing dilemma and on the receiving end leaves a person feeling violated. Thank you for raising public awareness on this very important issue.

  13. Mark Fiddes - reply

    Some great points made!

    I believe the UK tabloid press antics are not only quite unbelievable, they are also embarrassing for us as a civilized nation. The word ‘respect’ seems to have gone completely, and politicians have lost sight of reality.

    I was talking to a German friend, and he was quite bemused that the press in the UK would act in such a way, and asked ‘do Brits really want to read the garbage put out by some of your press?’ My answer was, I hope not!

    I wouldn’t advocate boring content in a press clean up, but perhaps, and hoping our national press are out of touch with the people.

  14. Cyberquill - reply

    Great piece. And all throughout, I didn’t see Mr Grant blink even once.

  15. Lou - reply

    An excellent piece which I don’t believe are myths but are which most people know and have grown to accept unfortunately. Hugh Grant was superb on Question Time and at the leveson enquiry. What I hope that isn’t forgotten more than regulations being put in place is that people have broken the law, crimes have been committed by members of our police force as well as these low life hacks and justice needs to be served to all not just a few scapegoats that are currently in the dock.

  16. anon - reply

    The newsnight coverage yesterday was really the only time the ordinary victims have been featured in this campaign and seen in the mainstream media-they have been sidelined for celebrites when the irony is that it was the scandal of milly dowler situation- a “civilian” and NOT a celebrity that actually brought this debacle to the forefront. I believe the public would have been much more behind this campaign if they had seen the 7/7 victim suport goup and hillsborough ambassoders amongst others represented in the broadcast media and at the forefront of the campaign. Every time i turned on newsnight, channel4 news and QT all i saw was a slew of celebrities featured and as lovely as they are including yours truly the public are very cynical about celebs on their soapboxes and would have felt more connected to real and ordinary stories – an opportunity missed inmho by hacked off and as a result they allowed the tabloids to dismiss the campaign as for rich, elite lefties.

  17. Jaikiran Maram - reply

    Mr.Grant,

    I applaud the role you have played through out the Leveson enquiry. Freedomm of individual is as important as free press.

  18. Nicole Robertson - reply

    Thank you Hacked Off. I watched the Channel 4 documentary with great interest and support you in your campaign. Watching and waiting for the result…

    • Diane Thompson - reply

      Ditto; I’m so pleased that this campaign has made such an impact. The British press brings out so much of the bad in the general public’s taste for gossip without a care for the harm it does. This campaign has been a voice for those of us who swim against the tide.

  19. Sabrina George - reply

    So right and succinctly put. Press is screaming at itself about what it’s done and its rights

  20. Kris - reply

    This is an excellent article – eloquently written, straight to the point and a damning indictment against the gutter press. I agree with its sentiments wholeheartedly.

    The next step is for the relationship between the Chipping Norton triangle to bring down the government. It would be nothing more than they deserved. Cameron used his relationship with Murdoch’s minions to further his own cause. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. if you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows. If you use scumbags to further your political career, you deserve ousted from government at the earliest opportunity.

    Anyone who taps the phone of a murdered child, or aggravates the suffering of parents grieving the death of their child, is entirely beneath contempt in my opinion. Britain would not be a worse place for all those involved to be jailed and their publications forcibly closed with immediate effect.

    For example, anyone missing the News of the World?

    Didn’t think so.

  21. Mark Thompson - reply

    A refreshingly coherent answer to the specious self-serving arguments put forward by much of the press. Why should we have to wade through mounds of oomska to get the occasional nugget of genuine public interest journalism? Despite protestations to the contrary great swathes of the great British press are focused purely on profit, not pravda. The very best of luck in trying to force-feed our papers some much needed ethical guidance.

  22. Chris Browne - reply

    Well done Hugh, you’ve conducted yourself with great intellect, eloquence and persistence, highlighting the double standards of the moral high ground that the press purport to occupy. I think your contribution will change many people’s lives for the good and the press will actually be better off! Cheers

  23. Stuart Kelly - reply

    Completely agree with you Hugh. A so called newsworthy incident happened at my school when I was 18 and I ended up speaking to the tabloid press. It was a hugely distressing experience and undermined my self confidence at a crucial time of my life.

    I’m impressed with how brave you’ve been in pursuing this campaign and congratulate you on it.

  24. Liz - reply

    Thanks for this article Hugh, most fascinating as I read it on the day of the Leveson Report’s release. You articulate your case clearly and I cannot disagree with you at any point. I appreciate greatly the integrity of your intent and the clarity of your response, especially given that certain sections of the Press sought to misrepresent your goal in engaging with this issue.

  25. Jane DeBrosse - reply

    Hugh, your passion for your subject shines through. This blog is beautifully and logically written. I’m so sorry for what happened and am so glad that victims of the press in the UK have such a champion. I only wish our Constitution in the U.S. would allow judges to take strong stands against the media here. I do not believe our Founding Fathers intended for the press to be as free as they are, in stalking, attacking, and victimizing celebrities and others. Thanks for such a comprehensive rebuttal to arguments made by opponents of the right to privacy.

  26. Liz - reply

    Thanks for this article, most fascinating as I read it on the day of the Leveson Report’s release. Hugh Grant articulated his case clearly and I could not disagree at any point. I appreciate greatly the integrity of his intent and the clarity of response, especially given that certain sections of the Press sought to misrepresent his goal in engaging with this issue.

  27. Tony Rhodes - reply

    Well Done Hugh for puncturing the hypocritical excuses of the British Press (famous overseas as the ‘Worst Press In The World’). The irony of their claim to be supporting freedom of speech gags in my throat and could only work with a population so badly educated and controlled by the Media that they are used to having their thinking done for them. Plainly if the British Press recognised free-speech they would offer a right of reply to everyone they wrongly accused. They continue to lie and cheat even when they know they are wrong and will stoop to the dirtiest of tricks. Phone hacking seems to have shocked most people but it is as nothing compared with the evil actions meted out to others. Including the Plymouth man who was burned to death by a mob incited by the News of The World Name and Shame campaign when they ‘fingered’ an innocent man with a similar name as a paedophile when he wasn’t.

    I am surprised that hackedoff does not appear to know about the long-term campaign against the excesses of the press by Greville Janner MP (now Lord Janner). Hugh mentioned the six other campaigns but not Janner’s private members bill which also unfortunately failed to break the misuse of power by the press in the 1980s due to political intrigue and intransigence.

    Keep up the good work Hugh and all at Hackedoff

    Tony

  28. Muna - reply

    why don’t you have a jury funded by the papers and the government elect members of the public from different backgrounds to randomly go in to any press office and see how they behave when they search for stories and see how journalist and editors do their job. Inspect their search of stories.
    Not control them just to make them aware that the people have the right (even rich and popular people) to live their life’s.

  29. Sarah Bennett - reply

    Very informative and interesting read! Thank you so much. I will be sharing this page to friends and colleagues.
    Best regards,
    Sarah Bennett

  30. John Everyman - reply

    Thanks for all the work on this.

    A well functioning press, government and police service, are pre-requisites of a well functioning free society. All three have been shown to be engaging in wide spread systematic corruption for the sole purpose of their own financial gain.

    For these people to defend their atrocious gutter-press stories under the guise of free speech is a nonsense.

    THIS very campaign IS free speech in action.

    Being free to criticism the government, police and large media corporations in safety and without fear of imprisonment. This is the absolute cornerstone of our society. Its how corruption is caught and stopped. Before this hacking enquiry took place, this very thing was at risk.

  31. dennis - reply

    My thanks to everyone involved in the campaign for the time and effort they have contributed.
    Please keep the effort going and put the victims at the forefront of the campaign.Leveson’s report is the start of the battle and public opinion will win the day despite the opposition of Cameron and the press industry.

  32. joe - reply

    Ryan Giggs affair was of critical of public intrest. The Media shouldnt make stuff up but it should report the truth. Its morraly wrong to have an affair

  33. Elizabeth - reply

    Congratulations Hugh Grant for such a well written piece. I’m sure if you wanted a career change a decent publication would snap you up in a jiffy. No pun intended. Syd Australia

  34. Sarah Braund - reply

    Your website is very informative and I enjoyed watching your programe. I gave up reading newspapers a long time ago and recently got rid of my TV licence, as I prefer to search for truth and knowledge from the internet and books.
    This is fantastic work that you and your team are doing.

  35. Graham Smith - reply

    I have the greatest sympathy for victims of phone hacking and unwarranted media intrusion as Hugh Grant has described and I agree with statutory regulation of the media in this regard. The most significant aspects of the Leveson inquiry are being missed however. News Corporation and News International have been in a position to dictate policy to Prime Ministers and governments. Why did Blair and Cameron have so many meetings and phone calls with executives of NI? If the PM doesn’t follow the far right policies of News International, these media outlets will be so critical of him or her that the PM is finished, as John Major testified. This may even have led to wars. We vote for a party, an MP or a PM, not Rupert Murdoch.
    Graham Smith

  36. Vicky - reply

    Excellent article. Thanks to all at Hacked Off for taking such a brave stand. The public and most Members of Parliament are with you. The Prime Minister’s response to the Leveson report was an absolute outrage, and the decent majority can and must demand the implementation of the report’s recommendations in full.

  37. TJ - reply

    I watched Hugh Grant’s documentary Taking on the Tabloids. So impressed with Hugh’s humble demeanour yet piercing intellect and unwavering determination to challenge the tabloids. It was a revelation to grasp the sinister admissions and observing the nervous dispositions of the big guns such as the Times editor, Boris Johnson (that in particular was an impressive challenge), and Lord Hunt. Then there was a revealing piece of Piers Morgan talking very knowledgeably on how a phone can be hacked (though, unfortunately cant be seen as evidence that his paper abused that mobile phone weakness). The Times Editor came across like a mafia man, warning Hugh not to “go there” because he’ll get into bigger problems. So damn scary. And a glimpse at depressing reveals of dirty journalism which in a couple of cases led to their victim’s suicide. So depressing. But the program really did a good job in exposing the attitudes of the press.

    I imagine the Hacked Off team will be very disappointed with The Leveson report today, I would be interested to hear everyone’s reactions. However, keep persevering. Everything you guys have done so far has not been a waste, 405,000 viewers apparantly watched that program yesterday…not a lot to be honest but still, 405,000 more people are enlightened.

    Keep fighting.

  38. Allan Barrett - reply

    All due credit to Hugh and as a footnote, didn’t Charlotte Church do an excellent job on QT.
    Thanks to both of you

  39. john Eldred - reply

    Hugh Grant

    Articulate statement. We have to defend full implementation of Leveson, given the response of Cameron and his friends the Uk Press Editors. We should go further, the one thing these folks fear is not fines, but prison, see US response on different issues to Conrad Black. The injury these folks can deliver on a someone’s life is equivalent to assault. They need to recognise their moral responsibility.

  40. anon - reply

    Very well written and accurate. I have suffered more than once at the hands of the press and had to endure weeks of personal scrutiny until it was discovered that the other party’s phone had been hacked. Most people are very discreet and I agree with Hugh that the vast majority of so called celebrities have no interest in media attention. How have the Daily mail managed to get away with their unbelievable intrusions so far ?

  41. Bacchanalia - reply

    Well written Hugh, a tour de force. Watching the Leveson enquiry was a real eye opener for me – the representatives of the gutter press, especially Paul Dacre, came across as quite the most disgusting self righteous individuals I have ever come across

  42. Jennifer Bassett - reply

    Well said, well written, and well campaigned, Mr Grant. We need a press regulator with teeth, and a sharp enough bite to prevent these abuses by arrogant and barbaric media people. I just hope our pusillanimous, self-serving politicians can be made to realise the strength of feeling by ordinary folk on this issue.

  43. Carole - reply

    Hugh, I understand totally about the abuse that has been dished out by certain media towards some celebrities and other, not so well heeled financially victims.

    My worry would be is that ‘underpinning’ legislature by Statute may leave a way in for another way of adding more legislation and thus prevent the press from exposing say, parliamentary misdeeds, crime, tax invasion etc., and a myriad of other genuine public interest stories that need to be exposed.

    I truly believe that a Governing body such as Ofcom would still have to be authorised by the Secretary of State and this may cause another problem.

  44. Keith - reply

    Points well made.

    Noam Chomsky has long argued we do not have a free press. We have a press that is part of and controlled by corporate big business.

    Thus a free press is a convenient myth.

    Yes, we do want a fearless free press that exposes the misdeeds of the powerful, their criminality, tax dodging and abuse of power.

    But instead we have a gutter press that in the name of a free press, rakes over the lives of private people, whether rich and famous or unknown, fills the pages with news of moronic TV programmes or the boring lives of mindless celebrities.

    The press has conceded the notion of an independent regulator, and yet objects to the idea of it being underwritten in law. That objection can only be because there is no intention to comply.

    I have signed the petition for Leveson to be implemented in full. I am urging others to sign too.

    http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/freedom-of-the-press/

  45. BOF - reply

    It is a great pity Leveson and Hackedoff have become necessary. I would like to think that the nobler functions of the media could be restored to the front line – remember the muckrakers, thalidomide, Watergate, MPs expenses and even, yes, the Guardian bringing this filth to public notice. That’s what we want to support in the interests of us all, for a healthier society, where power can be held to account. Thanks Hugh. Keep up the good work.

  46. Sludge - reply

    Re: Interesting to the public -
    UK adult population ~ 50,000,000.
    UK paper circulation ~ 10,000,000 (and falling)

    Conclusion – significant majority of the public do not find what the papers have to say ‘interesting’.

    Re: Celebrities and publicity – the double edged sword.
    ‘You seek publicity? Well you’ve no right to object when it’s negative.’

    Really? Says who? And what about the papers advantages and disadvantages? Where’s that?

    In my opinion, the basic exchange is that in return for positive publicity, the papers get to fill the space; the vacuum; the void. They get to ‘feed the beast’.

    When celebrities are ‘exposed’, there is no mutual benefit. Only the beast benefits.

    Conclusion – The papers are not interested in practising fair and reasonable behaviour. In short ‘It’s all about me, me, me.’ They are not interested in news, issues or people. All is fodder.

    It’s all about feeding the beast. They make their living through feeding it. Their families wealth and well being depends on it.

    And we don’t need independent regulation? Yeah. Right.

  47. Farah Damji - reply

    Well written and succinct. More and more it becomes clear Leveson is just tear gas thrown at the public as a sop after the backlash against the Milly Dowler phone hacking misery. Leveson was told to stay within a narrow remit and actually not to look to closely at the relationship between ministers and senior journalists. Why is Theresa May’s office sending commercially priviledged e mails to MI5 stooge Sunday Times Insight Team reporter, David Leppard? Where’s the public interest in picking apart lives and scavenging on half truths in the twilight? Interesting that the bastion of free speech and small state non interference the Spectator came thrashing out against state regulation, before the report was out. Were they informed by No 10 that this would be the party line? Look beyong the two-way mirror, behind the back of the cupboard and through the headlines.

    Good luck with your campaign, Hugh. The time for sops is over. The public have spoken and are angry.

    • nick spears - reply

      That’s all very well Farah – but what about if you steal your cleaner’s credit card? You probably should be in the papers then

  48. John Warden - reply

    On the one hand, it’s a simple fact of life that many people like to gossip. It’s been going on for thousands of years. And people are still prepared to pay for the salacious or scandalous information to feed that predilection.

    On the other hand our free press has a long history of fearlessly confronting of injustice, reporting in difficult circumstances and challenging abuses of power. They have long worked in the public interest and have developed approaches, skills and capability to tackle the toughest challenges.

    The phone hacking ‘tip of the iceberg’ has thankfully led to Levison listening to Hugh and others to reveal the indefensible conflating of the two – but gossip is not in the public interest, however hard pompous and opinionated editors may try to dress it up, hiding behind the myths Hugh brilliantly debunks. And the gruesome extension of the press’ praiseworthy journalistic skills into grossly intrusive and illegal practices to reap commercial gains for peddling gossip will not stop without the statutory underpinning Levison has recommended.

    Left to its own self regulation, there is no prospect of the press kicking the grotesque habit of peddling gossip gained by breaching people’s privacy. The press has been a junkie for so long it can no longer imagine life without a regular fix to keep the revenues up. Only legislation will work.

  49. Aidan O'Rourke - reply

    For years I have been appalled by the standards and methods of the British press, and rarely if ever buy British newspapers. I thought I was the only one, obviously not. Well done Hugh Grant and all others involved in the campaign, you have my full support.

  50. Máire Messenger Davies - reply

    Excellent piece. Well written, thoughtfully argued, properly evidenced. You should be a journalist (a proper one).

  51. Junia - reply

    I applaud Hugh Grant in this. I have not bought a newspaper for many years, due to the increased tittle-tattle, intrusion into private affairs of various people, and boring stuff about nonenties. The answer is in your own hands – don’t buy the rags.

  52. david - reply

    Great job Hugh keep it up we are with you

  53. Alan - reply

    Am I missing something here? The reason we had Leveson was that the press broke the law, in all the interviews I have seen no one has said “you brought this on yourselves” to the editors etc.
    What Leveson should have put in his report was legally backed retractions printed on the same pages with same space and on all the same days for any story found to untrue or made up, then the press would have to study hard before printing known lies. As for photographers chasing people down the street the law on harassment should apply. This blog should be put into leaflet form and sent to all the houses in the UK so the public is made aware of the true
    nature of the press actions

  54. Charles - reply

    Phone hacking is already against the law. If the police got off their fat bums and started enforcing the laws that already existed then we wouldn’t need any extra press regulations.

    • Henry - reply

      This is NOT just about phone hacking, illegal as it is (and should be enforced)…
      a landscape architect was murdered in Bristol a few years ago. Large sections of the press very publicly “convicted” the old chap (her landlord) who lived in the flat below in hysteria and over many newspaper pages over several days but with no proper evidence. Later a younger (Dutch) guy was actually convicted of that murder with proper evidence, but where did you see the front pages (or any following pages) showing apologies for these papers getting it so utterly wrong?
      You might be a completely innocent similar older guy by chance one day. Unless you are very rich enough to sue for libel (and even then you don’t get the same newspaper prominence) you will get tarred with “the crime”, and could have your life ruined. Just so they can sell a few more newspapers at your expense.
      I am not against public interest proper journalistic reporting.
      And I’m not here to defend the lives of either guilty or righteous celebs (who may have better access and money to defend themselves than ordinary people).
      And I want a free (but responsible) press.
      If anything like Watergate in the USA happened here I’d want the few courageous journalists pursuing it as those of the NYT did.
      But if as prominent as original headline apologies COULD be demanded (as appropriate, not just for the sake of “tit for tat” and recognising the public interest) then newspapers would more carefully consider what they print.
      Once you have been on the receiving end of press sensationalism (as I have by a non-national newspaper) you might understand.

  55. John Downey - reply

    I could not disagree more with the proposal to regulate the press. While most of the 10 points have some validity we should be applying the full force of the law to punish those transgressors who hacked phones and committed other illegal acts not adding more legislation.
    Until we see some people, properly convicted under current legislation, in Prison, the idea that another set of rules will clean up this mess is risible.

    Let us use the current rules to the full extent allowed, including and especially those pertaining to police officers and other in public office who betray confidences and tip off the press.

    The idea that we could trust politicians to write and apply laws that have a bearing on their own conduct is such a joke. What I find most annoying about Hacked Off and other well meaning commentators is that you say “something must be done” but don’t propose anything in detail.

    We have existing legislation to cater for everything apart for good taste and that is subjective anyway.

  56. Kristine - reply

    Thank you for the work you do, very clear and to the point, expressing so well what many of us feel already.

  57. David Western - reply

    Enough is enough, Cameron. Stop worrying about how the press will turn on you if you support Leveson’s recommendations, and do the right thing! Man up!

  58. hilary reeves - reply

    I saw Hugh on the tv thismorning, he obviously cares about this………i hope we get some MORE caring, and less in-care.

  59. Steve Cranenburgh - reply

    Here’s the thing. If our press would work with gthe same integrety as Bernstein and Woodward there never would have been an issue. Our press have frankly abused the freedom they have had. Now, ironically what the public want is freedom FROM the press. They really have been that bad.

  60. Tulle Tilsynet - reply

    Nobody has a right not to be written about.

  61. Caroline Chaplin - reply

    How can anyone honestly objects to what is suggested by the Leveson report? He has visibly tried to find a middle way between over regulation of the press -which in the wrong hands could be dangerous – and the free for all regime that we have had in the past where the press financial barons have put on a show of pretence “regulation” which was ineffective and weak. The middle course suggested by the Leveson report is trying to address the worst aspects of the current regime, that is to say the lack of independance of the so called “self-regulators”. Isn’t it obvious that, exactly like a judge should not been be judging a case in which he would have a direct personal interest, the press’s professional and ethical standards should be supervised by individuals who are truly independent of the industry they seek to oversee? And that, they themselves should be subject to control and judicial review if they are shown to exercise their powers otherwise than in an impartial way and with the objective to enforce the standards to which some parts of the press are only paying lip service. I also wish to add that I do not agree with the distinction being made between “innocent victims” and “celebrities”: every human being has a right to privacy and it is entirely spurious to argue that knowledge of the love life of a footballer or an actor is in ” the public interest”. The exposure by the press of the incartades of so called “celebrities” is merely dictated by financial, not moral, considerations. For the sake of profits, people’s reputations are destroyed, lives and careers ruined while newspapers proprietors rubb their hands with glee and count the sales. My only criticism of the Leveson report is that a maximum £1m fine does not go far enough. I also support the new tribunal -which cannot be put in place without legislation- which will give people a quicker and cheaper avenue to seek redress and will also protect the press agains the temptation of self-censorship due to fear of libel actions by wealthy and powerful individuals. Far from reducing press freedom the recommandations of the Leveson report have the potential to greatly increase it. The obligation to protect it will be enshrined in statute. At the moment the press is free to attack those who do not have the means to defend themselves. But -with a few notable exceptions- reluctant to attack those who could fight back where it hurts: in their wallets. But the industry should not have the right to “pick and chose” only what it likes in the report.

  62. Graham - reply

    It is the ordinary person in the street that deserves privacy. If a tragedy occurs and a child dies the Daily #### screams “First Picture”. Invariably that first picture is lifted from a social media site, no permission is sought or given to splash that “first” picture, it might be of interest to the public but is it IN the public interest. Not everyone wants to be in the news, why should they be the subject of it at all if they have no desire to be so? As for a “free” press, comments on the ####online are blocked if you ask how some recently deceased childs facebook pictures are listed as copyright some news service, (as if the parent has the power or the will to sell the copyright the next day), and to argue for regulation or any form of privacy in the comments section never see the light of day!

  63. Mike Smith - reply

    How long before those who have commented here find that Murdoch’s little helpers have hacked in ,and you find you are being persecuted, with the full backing of David Cameron of course. I personally think Cameron will go all the way to protect the tory tabloids, because he needs them to slander his opponents at the next election. If he fails in this he will be replaced by that “people’s friend”, Boris Johnson. Re the need for a free press, we all know that if News International operated in Syria, they would be backing Assad, not the opposition. A free press is never the plaything of a multi-millionaire.

  64. T'Inqeeb - reply

    The argument that celebs live by publicity and are therefore fair game, is reminiscent of a similar, archaic line of reasoning: Men used not to be prosecuted for rape if the victim was the man’s wife – after all, that’s what they are for, aren’t they? The world has moved on; how much longer are we expected to swallow journalist’s pathetic reasoning for justifying their preoccupation with socially degenerate interests?

  65. David Wilson - reply

    Keep up the good work Mr Grant…certain members of the press have abused the power they hold…I just hope the government have the will to implement the findings of the report.
    It will not be the end of a free press but they must be regulated.

  66. Amie Richan - reply

    Whoever wrote this article, it’s absolutely brilliant– they should be writing a book explaining politics and government– no one would ever vote the same way, again. As a musician who has spent a good deal of her adult life in the company of famous folk, I have often found, interestingly, that the less the talent and accomplishment, the more they want the press/media attention. Not to mention, conversely, the less ability and success in someone’s life, the more they are interested in reading that stuff. However, as the milk for 50p analogy illustrates, it is bizarre to presume that no matter how much private information one divulges, that permission has been tacitly given to access all of it. For example, if, appropriately, we never even know 100% of our parents’ relationship, then why should anyone else.

  67. Diane - reply

    I would like to thank Hugh Grant and the entire Hacked Off campaign for their courage and determination in taking on the British Nightmare that is The Press. I am utterly dismayed by David Cameron’s spineless response to the Levinson enquiry. I am an English female residing in Scotland, and am hoping that Alex Salmond will use Scots law for statutory legal underpinning of any independent body that is created to oversee the press, and if I understand correctly, Labour and the LibDems are also onside at Westminster. You deserve high praise for that. It doesn’t surprise me frankly that Cameron has fallen at the last fence. He doesn’t look like a man who loses sleep over much and he and Boris need Murdoch’s airbrush! I hope you can take heart in the knowledge that myself and millions of other UK residents abhor the way the press conducts itself, and that we support your campaign one hundred percent. Thankyou. Please don’t give up.

  68. Pingback: Learning about Leveson: news and resources round up | Invest4Wealth

  69. Veronica-Mae - reply

    For those here who want more than sleeze and unpleasant stories may I recommend you find a copy of the quarterly “Positive News” -often there to be taken free from many outlets- it is just what it says on the tin. Those happy, uplifting, encouraging, pleasant stories from around the world which give you a warm glow and make you feel that there is much good in the world. http://www.positivenews.org.uk

  70. Tara Kingdom - reply

    I feel that the attitude of the press in this country actively prevents people from achieving their potential. Who would want to shine at anything if it means you and your family are denied the right to any privacy.

  71. Jennene Greenall - reply

    And another big thank you from me and my colleagues in Australia (Real Media Real Change). Thank you standing up to a press that as you say feels they are above the law, thank you for calling out the fact that they are bullies and cowards, thank you for debunking (just a few) of the myths that surround the press’ arguments and take on freedom of the press/freedom of speech. Such freedoms are a basic human right – and such freedoms ought to be sought free of abuse. Through their gross misconduct and lack of integrity we are seeing a these behaviours normalised and perpetrated in the online environment too (Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc). You are all doing such a great service to humanity. Thank you.

  72. Luca - reply

    Er…. do we not already have laws against phone hacking and cops taking bribes ? If only the press ,politicians and police were not corrupt and in cahoots .Leveson inq. is about muzzling the press to aid the rich and powerful and to stymie disclosure of abhorrent power abuse by capitalist cronies .Not independent and a smokescreen to truth.

  73. Sam Armstrong - reply

    Excellent piece of information. Yes I do buy newspapers, but I don’t buy them for the trevia, I buy them for interesting and informative and useful articles. Unfortuately the tittle-tattle gets included. I just think its so horrifying, indecent and prostitutional that there are people out there who think hacking, approving hacking is a decent way of earning a living. If you stabbed someone in the street its illegal. This is total mental cruelty and shold be stopped immediately. I have a lot of respect for real journalism. I would love to see more newspapers like the Independant and the i which are superb.

    I tend to read a mixture of newspapers because I want to see how the reading populations of the different newspapers are influenced – especially when it comes to election times.

    It is a sad sad thing that that people are making their decisions on so much mis-information.

    Keep up the good work!

  74. paula ammolite - reply

    I just want to thank You for publishing these parts from Hugh Grant’s Leveson witness statement, in here. It helps to get a closer and inside view of this indeed.

  75. Pingback: CadeFlaw Initiative: The Perceptions, Interpretations & Misconceptions | Anti-Defamation Legacy Law Advocates (Cadeflaw)

  76. maggie atlas - reply

    Why are governments afraid to govern in interest of ALL. Lets start to wonder and come up with some reasons?

Leave a comment