Freedom of the press is under threat, says Francis Maude
A Cabinet Minister has mounted a strong defence of the freedom of the press, warning that the media’s “sacred role” is under threat.
Mr Maude believes over regulation of the press will make it much easier for politicians to misuse taxpayers’ money.
With Lord Justice Leveson’s report on the press being presented to ministers next month, some politicians are speculating that a new system of regulation could infringe fundemental press freedoms.
Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Maude said, “Despite the role that a vibrant, rigorous and even feisty media plays in building bigger, stronger societies and deeper, surer liberty, we still see attacks on free speech and press freedoms all around the world”.
Mr Maude will today chair a meeting of the Open Government Partnership, an international forum that encourages governments to be more transparent with informaiton, at think tank Reform.
Mr Maude writes: “This is a group that has historically exposed the lies, the corruption, and the ineffectiveness of people in power [...] I’m talking about the fourth estate – the media – which has an almost sacred role in holding governments to account”.
“A free and independent press has always been the keystone of an open society. Liberal democracies can only exist with informed citizens. This is an axiom but one that requires repetition”.
The Leveson inquiry, which was set up following revelations that the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old schoolgirl who was abducted and murdered, was hacked by members of the press, was not referenced by Mr Maude.
Yet the inquiry saw a national debate regarding the role and ethics of the media and whether the state should have powers, if any, to regulate the press.
Mr Maude writes fiercely in favour of press freedom, issuing a call to arms to the media the world over to hold politicians’ "feet to the fire".
The Coalition government is trying to put as much official data into the public domain as possible to ensure that journalists can hold politicians to account, Mr Maude says in his article.
“Journalists everywhere need to engage with this data to expose waste, incompetence and corruption wherever they see it," Mr Maude writes.
The Minister adds: “Far better to work under the knowledge that what you do will be scrutinised, analysed, picked over – that will make people at every level in government think twice about how they spend taxpayers’ money.”