Hacked Off respond to revelations that newspapers held back on Whittingdale story as he blocked promised reforms

Responding to revelations that newspapers held back story on Secretary for Media who has been blocking press regulation reforms promised by the Prime Minister, Hacked Off said today:

“Either the Prime Minister routinely breaks his promises to victims of press abuse or the Culture Secretary is caving in to the press industry agenda – or both.”

TV and radio have today broadcast revelations that a number of national newspapers withheld from publishing a story about Secretary of State for Media John Whittingdale’s private life, at the same time that the Culture Secretary intervened to block key press regulation reforms agreed by all parties in Parliament.

The story was originally broken on independent news websites.

Commenting on the ongoing revelations, Hacked Off Joint Executive Director Dr Evan Harris said:

“The plain facts are that since John Whittingdale’s appointment as Culture Secretary, he has back-tracked on agreed Government policy and a cross-party agreement by blocking critical access to justice legislation for future victims of libel and press intrusion, and by saying that the question around Leveson Part 2 which will examine press and police cover-ups, is whether – not when – it will take place. Victims of press abuse wrote to the Prime Minister last week asking why he and his Culture Secretary were breaking these “solemn promises” and they are still waiting for answers.

“Either the Prime Minister routinely breaks his promises to victims of press abuse or the Culture Secretary is caving in to the press industry agenda – or both.

“John Whittingdale now needs to be clear about whether he knew that newspapers had this story and were not running it, and if so why he did not tell the Prime Minister on his appointment to the cabinet that this potential and glaring personal conflict of interest existed.

“The Culture Secretary has taken to himself powers of discretion over whether a judge should inquire into the press, and over whether a law already passed by Parliament should have any effect on the press. He should not have these powers as all parties at the Leveson Inquiry agreed. He now should retire from any role in press regulation by giving his firm commitment that Leveson Part 2 will definitely go ahead once criminal trials have been completed and by bring into effect the critical access to justice legislation already passed by Parliament.

“Individuals are entitled to a private life free from intrusion and stories about private matters must be justified by genuine public interest (several of which have been cited in this case), but tabloid newspapers have not hesitated from publishing stories like this in other cases and the question arises whether by not publishing, the Culture Secretary was being held to ransom or believed he was.”


  1. The original article which broke the story is on Byline.
  2. Blog with commentary here.
  3. Letter to the Prime Minister about his broken promises from press abuse victims.

Hacked Off is the campaign for a free and accountable press.  The Campaign works with victims of press abuse to achieve those aims.


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1 Comment

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Colin Cameronreply
April 15, 2016 at 12:12 pm

I would be grateful if you could explain why you think that the papers should have published this story. Surely that would have been precisely the sort of abuse of people’s private lives that you have been campaigning against, and I am struggling to see your position as anything other than hypocritical.

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