Campaign group publishes draft bill which would enshrine press freedom in law and specify standards for self-regulation
The Hacked Off campaign, which represents victims of press intrusion, is to publish a draft bill on Monday that closely follows the recommendations set out in the Leveson report on press regulation last month. The proposed bill is a response to the “closed doors” debate at Westminster on how to implement Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.
Writing in the Guardian, Brian Cathcart, director of Hacked Off, says it is “impossible to have confidence” in the process of the back-room negotiations between the parties over the Leveson bill.
“What is happening is a subversion of Leveson and an insult to the idea of an open society,” he writes. “[The government] can’t be trusted, and the more they meddle privately with Leveson’s recommendations, the more they are certain to contaminate them. Day by day, they are burning up public trust.”
Hacked Off’s bill is the third such draft bill to be published, but arguably most closely follows the recommendations of the Leveson report, and will now be subject to a one-month consultation among interested members.
The government has also drafted a bill, but has refused to publish it and has been trying to convince Labour and the Liberal Democrats that the ancient device of a royal charter can be used to set up a body to oversee a press-led body responsible for regulation.
Conservative members of the government believe a royal charter would ensure the system of verification was not set up by parliamentary statute, something the press is determined to avoid.
Hacked Off says its proposed bill, drafted largely by Hugh Tomlinson QC and parliamentary counsel Daniel Greenberg, would:
• Enshrine the freedom of the press in statute for the first time, making attempted ministerial or other state interference in the media explicitly illegal.
• Specify the standards that the voluntary independent press self-regulator will have to meet to satisfy public demand for a system that is effective and independent of government, parliament and the newspaper industry.
• Set out a transparent, democratic system to appoint a recognition commission to verify on behalf of the public that the press self-regulator is doing its job properly. The draft bill details how an appointments commission with all-party support and mainly involving the judiciary could appoint a recognition body that in turn oversees the body established by the press to regulate itself.
• Give legal effect to Leveson’s “carrots and sticks”, incentivising publishers to join the self-regulator through access, under specified circumstances, to reduced costs in court proceedings and protection from exemplary damages.
The authors claim the bill uses Leveson’s own wording as much as possible. However, Hacked Off in its consultation document sets out how the government should react if the press fails to develop a workable system, something Leveson did not suggest.
Hacked Off’s consultation document states: “In the event of the failure of the industry or significant players within it to make the new system work within a reasonable period, the recognition body will need to report that to the government, who then need to decide what action to take. The public would expect the politicians to be able to say now what they would do in those circumstances.”
Private intensive cross-party talks on how to set up a recognition body reconvened last Thursday and more meetings are due this week.
The press is also due to meet on Thursday to discuss what form of self-regulation it is willing to endorse to replace the Press Complaints Commission.
Peers will also debate press regulation on Friday, while the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has said he will stage a debate and vote in the Commons this month to demonstrate the support for some form of press regulation underpinned by statute.
Hacked Off insisted on Sunday night that its one-month consultation on its draft bill did not cut across the idea of a vote this month in the Commons on the need for some form of statutory underpinning of press regulation.
Cerberus has disinvested from the maker of the gun used in the Newtown school killings after pressure from a teachers’ fund
On Tuesday the private equity firm Cerberus announced that it would divest from Freedom Group, the company that manufactures the gun used in the Newtown school killings. Cerberus was behind the meteoric rise of Freedom Group – which owns such gun brands as Bushmaster and Remington – providing the capital to build it into a firearms powerhouse.
Cerberus’s decision to divest, though, was driven by the Californian teachers’ pension fund CalSTRS, which uses Cerberus as a conduit to get into the lucrative business of buying and selling companies. Private equity firms rely on investment from such institutional investors, and the story provides a rare glimpse into the deeper power structure behind arms manufacturing. We’re used to the narrative of how weapons companies support lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association, but we’re seldom encouraged to think about who funds the weapons companies themselves.
Perhaps it’s fitting that Cerberus – named after the mythical three-headed hound of Hades – would make investments into industries that lead people to the underworld, but they portray such investments as rational, value-free decisions made on behalf of “the pension plans of firemen, teachers, policemen and other municipal workers and unions”. They claim that, “as a firm, we are investors, not statesmen or policymakers … It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate”.
Cerberus’s portrayal of its investment as apolitical is open to question on at least two accounts. First, according to the OpenSecrets.org database, Cerberus’s founder, Stephen Feinberg, has made donations to two Republican politicians – Orrin Hatch and Ben Quayle – who oppose gun control and who tried to introduce the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act in 2011, a piece of legislation aimed at easing restrictions on gun sales across state borders. Ben’s father, the former Republican vice-president Dan Quayle, is also chairman of Cerberus’s global investment group,.
Second, an investment decision is always a political decision backing a particular vision of our future society. There is nothing remotely value-free about funding weapons empires, but the illusion is perpetuated by neoclassical portfolio theory models that posit that an investment is prudent if its financial risk is commensurate with financial return. Cerberus’s analysts present a sanitised version of the profits from violence in the form of financial reports that do not include the social damage as part of the investment equation. We’re easily distracted by the battles between politicians in Washington, but behind every bullet shot there is the political weight of funds, banks, and individual investors extracting returns via euphemistically named investment vehicles such as Freedom Group and Colt Defense.
In this case, a perfect storm has unnerved investors, forcing them to reveal themselves. Not only is CalSTRS worried about the potential reputational damage from being associated with Cerberus, but in a strange twist of fate, it turns out that Stephen Feinberg’s father lives in Newtown, in the very community torn apart by the shooting tragedy. Perhaps it would make for awkward family dinners if Feinberg’s firm were to stay invested in Freedom Group.
As Cerberus passes the investment baton on to another group of investors, though, students, pensioners and justice campaigners need to exert intense pressure on their university endowments, pension funds and banks to disinvest from these activities. It’s one, frequently overlooked, key to breaking the power of the arms industry.
US private equity firm Cerberus is to sell its stake in Freedom Group, owner of gunmaker Bushmaster, following the Newtown school shootings.
See original here: US investment firm exits gunmaker
A UN agency, hosting a meeting of 193 government regulators in Dubai, tries to calm fears that they could threaten the freedom of the internet.
Read more here: UN net regulation talks kick off