22 February 2012
Dear Prime Minister,
The Hacked Off campaign was surprised and concerned to hear the Secretary of State for Education’s comments in relation to the Leveson Inquiry made in a speech to the Parliamentary Press Gallery yesterday (Tuesday, February 21), and even more concerned to hear you expressing support to Michael Gove’s statement during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mr Gove said he wanted to “concentrate on the big picture and the big picture is that there is a chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from the debate around Leveson.”
He added: “I think there are laws already in place which we should respect and principles already in place that we should uphold which are central to making sure that this country remains free.”
Mr Gove also said there was a danger the Inquiry would produce “a cure that is worse than the original disease”.
Mr Gove’s remarks show that he has not been listening to the evidence of widespread journalistic wrongdoing – whether criminal or merely unethical – emerging from the Inquiry. Nor has he heard the victims’ groups, academics, journalists, MPs and peers, and the judge himself who have all made clear that public interest journalism needs to not only be protected but nurtured in any improved system of regulation.
His comments demonstrate that he does not understand the difference between protecting individual freedom of expression and opposing the unaccountable power of corporate press barons. They are also a reminder of the lazy and craven attitudes by senior politicians whose policies were often dictated by the need to appease powerful media proprietors, and formed part of the reason for establishing the Inquiry in the first place.
In your address to the House of Commons on July 13, 2011, as you announced details of the Leveson Inquiry for the first time, you said: “We want it [the Inquiry] to be one that is as robust as possible. One that can get to the truth fastest and get to work the quickest. And one that commands the full confidence of the public.”
In light of your words, we would like an assurance from you that this government is still fully committed to the Leveson Inquiry and its validity and need.
As you said at the end of your speech “no one should be in any doubt we will get to the bottom of the truth and learn the lessons for the future”. We sincerely hope you and your government keep to your word.
In the light of the importance of this matter we are publishing this letter on our website and we will also publish your reply.
With best wishes,
Martin Moore and Brian Cathcart
Founders, Hacked Off campaign
Note: Since sending the letter, the campaign has been reassured by Number 10 that the Prime Minister backs the work of the Leveson Inquiry and will take the judge’s recommendations seriously.