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My view on press regulation

Are Guardian readers a confused bunch, or have I missed something? The newspaper seems content to see our long tradition of a free press come to an end, but at the same time bestows its approval on Edward Snowden for apparently standing up for freedom of expression and exposing to public inspection the murky workings of governments.

And have they not noticed the additional comic twist to the tale? In the style of Sir Robin in Monty Python & The Holy Grail, the same Edward Snowden bravely runs away from the US authorities and then busies himself seeking the protection of countries not noted for their liberal attitudes and press freedom – Russia, Cuba, Venezuela…

When it comes to constraining the press, The Guardian is in a holier-than-thou unholy alliance with the BBC. The Beeb has no love for the print media, and in any case is the natural home of metropolitan guardianistas.

The Guardian doesn’t really think of itself as a newspaper. In part it’s because The Guardian is unlikely to be a newspaper for very much longer – it’s currently ‘placing open journalism on the web at the heart of its strategy’, which I suppose is an upbeat way of saying ‘our sales are so small we’re going to give up on print and exist solely as a website’ (and a website, of course, is outside the remit of Leveson and his recommendations).

Politicians don’t like newspapers because they expose their expense fiddling. And unfortunately the terms of the new Royal Charter, which lays the ground for a tougher press regulator, allow a two-thirds majority of MPs to amend the Charter – and who knows what that could lead to?

It embarrasses us globally, too. Beyond these shores, those who fondly thought of Britain as a bastion of freedom are looking on in puzzlement as MPs, in thrall to the celebrity lobbyists of the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign group and under the pretext of dealing with the small number of illegal phone hackers, prepare to hobble responsible, independent journalism.

A Victorian newspaper stand