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Full Leveson inquiry statements from NUJ and Guardian

Guardian's Alan Rusbridger speaking to the Leveson inquiry. Still taken from video

The Leveson inquiry into press standards heard from key industry figures today, including representatives for the National Union of Journalists, the Guardian and the legal representative of alleged “victims” given core participant status.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ spoke first, describing the Press Complaints Commission as “little more than a self-serving gentleman’s club, and not a very good one at that”.

She also accused the system of having “failed, and abysmally so”. Her full statement to the inquiry has been published on the NUJ’s site here.

The inquiry also heard from editor-in-chief of the Guardian Alan Rusbridger, who has posted his statement in full online.

Near the beginning of his statement Rusbridger highlights the shifts which have taken place within the industry and are affecting journalists:

We also live in a world in which every reader becomes a potential fact checker. Social media allows anyone to respond to, expose, highlight, add to, clarify or contradict what we write. We have the choice whether to pretend this world of response doesn’t exist, or to incorporate it into what we do.

The more we incorporate it, the more journalism becomes, as it were, plastic. There will be less pretence that we are telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about a story, frozen at the moment it is published – what Walter Lippman in 1922 called the confusion between “news” and “truth”. A journalist today lives with the knowledge that there will be an external reaction to much of what she or he writes within minutes of publication. Journalism today is often less a snapshot, more a moving picture.

Video of today’s hearing is available to view on the Leveson inquiry website here.

Guardian on using Gaddafi corpse images: ‘Complaints arrived within the hour’

The use of the image of Muammar Gaddafi’s corpse in coverage of his death caused much controversy earlier this month, as newsrooms across the country made decisions about which images to use and with what prominence. At the time newspapers and broadcasters swiftly sought to explain the reasoning for their decisions to their audience, with the BBC’s Steve Herrmann issuing a statement to say the BBC News site would be “working on ways to ensure that we can give appropriate warnings on our website when we think images from the news are especially disturbing”.

And the debate continues, with the Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliot yesterday questioning the way in which the newspaper had used the images of Muammar Gaddafi’s corpse after it emerged he had been killed.

In a column published yesterday Elliot revealed that almost 60 readers wrote to him or the letters page to complain about the use of the images “as gratuitous, exploitative or triumphalist” while others posted criticisms online.

Elliot concludes that while he agreed with the decision to publish at the time, he is now “less convinced” about the manner in which they were used.

The scale of the photo on the newspaper front page of 21 October and prominent picture use on the website took us too close to appearing to revel in the killing rather than reporting it. And that is something that should feature in our deliberations the next time – and there will be a next time – such a situation arises.

Interestingly he added that in 2006, when the Guardian published images of Saddam Hussein after being hanged, it received more than 200 complaints.

However the Guardian’s media commentator Roy Greenslade does not agree with Elliot, arguing that “it was a valid journalistic response to this most extraordinary of news stories to publish the picture and to publish it big on the front page”.

It was news – gruesome, grisly, ghastly (choose your own shock adjective) news – and the images told a story of brutality and mob chaos that could not be explained in words alone.

Leveson inquiry: Seminar dates announced as publishers express concern over panel

The make-up of the panel of the Leveson inquiry, the public inquiry which will examine press standards, media regulations and the phone-hacking scandal, has come under criticism for lacking in tabloid and regional press representation.

In July prime minister David Cameron announced the line-up for the panel of experts who would assist with the public inquiry:

  • civil liberties campaigner and director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti;
  • former chief constable of the West Midlands, Sir Paul Scott-Lee;
  • former chairman of Ofcom, Lord David Currie;
  • former political editor of Channel 4 news, Elinor Goodman;
  • former political editor of the Daily Telegraph, and former special correspondent of the press association, George Jones;
  • former chairman of the Financial Times, Sir David Bell.

The Guardian reports that Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, as well as Trinity Mirror, the Newspaper Publishers’ Association and Guardian News & Media, raised some concerns about the panel during a hearing today (Wednesday, 28 September).

Leveson indicated that he would consider whether to appoint extra advisers in response to Associated’s complaint. The judge said that he would reserve his decision, noting that the “pressures on the Liverpool Echo will be different to the pressures affecting the Mirror and the Sun; different to the pressures affecting the Observer”.

Today the inquiry also announced the dates for two seminars in connection with the inquiry, to be held on 6 and 12 October, which will explore some of the key public policy issues raised by its terms of reference and to hear expert and public opinion on those. More details on content and participants will be announced on the inquiry website shortly.

Metropolitan Police statement on dropped action against Guardian

The Metropolitan Police has said it will no longer pursue plans to apply for a court order which would force the Guardian to hand over documents revealing sources of some of its phone hacking coverage.

Here is our story on how the Met has dropped plans to order Guardian source disclosure. Below is the police force’s statement in full, as issued yesterday (Tuesday):

The Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards yesterday consulted the Crown Prosecution Service about the alleged leaking of information by a police officer from Operation Weeting.

The CPS has today asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for appropriate time to consider the matter. In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday, 23 September. We have agreed with the CPS that we will work jointly with them in considering the next steps.

This decision does not mean that the investigation has been concluded. This investigation, led by the DPS – not Operation Weeting, has always been about establishing whether a police officer has leaked information, and gathering any evidence that proves or disproves that. Despite recent media reports there was no intention to target journalists or disregard journalists’ obligations to protect their sources.

It is not acceptable for police officers to leak information about any investigation, let alone one as sensitive and high profile as Operation Weeting.

Notwithstanding the decision made this afternoon it should be noted that the application for production orders was made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), NOT the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

The Official Secrets Act was only mentioned in the application in relation to possible offences in connection with the officer from Operation Weeting, who was arrested on August 18 2011 on suspicion of misconduct in a public office relating to unauthorised disclosure of information. He remains on bail and is suspended.

Separately, the MPS remains committed to the phone hacking investigation under Operation Weeting.

Milly Dowler phone hacking settlement reaches more than £1m, say reports

It is being reported this afternoon (19 September) that the family of Milly Dowler has been offered a settlement of more than £1 million by News International in ongoing negotiations.

The Guardian is reporting that it understands News International has made an offer which has been “estimated by sources” at being more than £2 million, which includes a charity donation.

Sky News is reporting that the settlement is “likely to top £1 million”. The BBC has tweeted that News International is “close to agreeing seven-figure financial settlement”.


The company closed the News of the World following allegations that the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was hacked while she was missing in 2002.

The lawyer Mark Lewis, who is acting for the family, had no comment. News International had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

Greenslade: Phone hacking book deals already signed

The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade reports today that book deals relating to the phone-hacking scandal have already been signed.

This includes one for Guardian journalist Nick Davies, of which is said to be “provisionally” titled Hack Attack.

It’s scheduled for release in autumn next year. So it looks as though Labour MP Tom Watson will get in first because his tome, for Penguin Press, is due to be published before the end of this year. It is being co-written with Martin Hickman of the Independent, a former journalist of the year.

Greenslade adds that “there is not the least sense of competition or animosity between Davies and Watson”, with the story big enough for the two of them, if not more.

Guardian: Police files investigated and News International to lose exclusive Olympic access

The Guardian reports today (21 July), that Scotland Yard has been asked to look at “thousands of files” to investigate whether officers unlawfully obtained mobile phone-tracking data for journalists.

There were half a million requests by public authorities for communications data in the UK last year – of which almost 144,000 were demands for “traffic” data, which includes location.

In other phone-hacking related news, newspapers under the News International umbrella are to lose exclusive access to British athletes in the lead up to the Olympics next year, also according to the Guardian. This is due to the closure of the News of the World and the impact of this on the partnership contract, according to the report.

Team 2012, the Visa-backed project supporting potential British Olympians, had signed up News International as its official partner.

But Team 2012 has said in a statement, that “as a result of the closure of News of the World the contract can no longer be fulfilled as originally envisaged”.

According to the Guardian Team 2012 “is now looking for potential new media partners”.

Guardian launches Kindle edition and outlines new mobile plans

The Guardian has launched its Kindle edition of the Guardian and Observer, which is said to carry content from the day’s newspaper and will be available to download seven days a week in the UK, US and more than 100 other countries.

In a post outlining the launch the Guardian says the edition is available to download from Amazon for a 14-day free trial, after which it will be priced at £9.99 a month in the UK, or £0.99 per issue.

The post also outlines two launches on the horizon for iPad and Android.

We’ve been working on iPad over the past few months and we’re currently testing it with some of our readers. Our objective has been to produce the most accessible, elegant interpretation of the Guardian newspaper for iPad and we hope we’re close to achieving that aim.

According to the Guardian, which recently announced a digital-first strategy, the new app will see the newspaper redesigned “exclusively in tablet form”.

The app will deliver a single daily edition of content, specifically curated for iPad. Like Kindle, it will be a subscription product, though we will be releasing it with a free trial period from launch.

The Guardian’s first Android app is due to launch in autumn and a new product for the HP TouchPad called Guardian Zeitgeist is also in the pipeline.

Phone hacking: Rusbridger answers questions on the ‘dark arts’ of Fleet Street

This afternoon Alan Rusbridger has been answering questions from readers in the form of a live Q & A on the Guardian website.

The post quickly gathered a heap of comments – more than pages worth, below are Rusbridger’s replies to questions about whether hacking has been going on at other newspapers, media regulation and politicians’ reactions.

Question: Oborne goes on to allege you also warned Nick Clegg about Coulson’s activities. Is this true? If so, what were Cameron and Clegg told that is now in the public domain? What have they known all along?

Rusbridger: Peter Oborne is right. Before the election it was common knowledge in Fleet Street that an investigator used by the NotW during Andy Coulson’s editorship was on remand for conspiracy to murder. We couldn’t report that due to contempt of court restrictions, but I thought it right that Cameron should know before he took any decisions about taking Andy Coulson into Number 10. So I sent word via an intermediary close to Cameron. And I also told Clegg personally.

Question: Does the Guardian have any evidence of phone hacking happening at other British newspapers? If so, once the dust settles over NotW, will the Guardian widen its continuing investigation to these papers, too?

Rusbridger: I think the bulk of Nick Davies’s evidence relates to the NotW. He did write a more general chapter on the so-called dark arts of Fleet Street in his book, Flat Earth News

To be frank, it’s taken him all this time to land this one, so he’s hardly had time to look elsewhere so far.

Question: The past few days have had me genuinely wondering about what, if any, licensing requirements there are on running a newspaper.

If a broadcaster had been up to what the NotW were doing it would quite rightly have been pulled off the air. So what exactly does a newspaper have to do to lose its right to publish in the UK?

Rusbridger: I’m anxious about the notion of state licensing for the press. We got rid of that more than 150 years ago (date, someone?) and I wouldn’t want to see it back. In an age when anyone can call themselves a journalist I see difficulties of definition. Would Huffington Post have to get a licence? So, I think it’s probably unworkable as well as undesirable. But I’d be interested to hear other views.

Read the full thread of comments and questions here.

Communication Bill must ‘give freedom’ to media companies, says Guardian chief executive

Moving to a digital first policy is “symptomatic” of what is going on in the UK market place, according to Guardian Media Group chief executive Andrew Miller.

Speaking today at the Westminster Media Forum Miller said:

The Guardian is a leading creative business in the UK, and we have a great international voice.

But internationally it isn’t a level playing field. Overseas communications competitors may have more freedom if law in the UK is poorly implemented.

He also echoed thoughts shared earlier in the day by Sarah Hunter, Google’s UK head of public policy, saying companies needed to develop a “coding mentality” by employing strong and innovative developers to work alongside creative and editorial employees.

The Communications Bill needs to give enterprises like the Guardian freedom. Freedom to innovate and freedom to carry on what we do best.

It must not compromise enterprises that act in the public interest. Regulators also must have more contact with the public – it’s they who should help decide the future of rights rather than exclusively those in the media industry.