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Parliament vote on the Royal Charter Monday 18th March 2013

Friday March 15 2013

We are at a critical moment in the history of Press Regulation as Parliament will, this Monday, 18th March, debate proposals advanced by the Conservatives for a Royal Charter introducing a new system of press regulation.  The proposals contained in the Royal Charter do not address what we consider to be key recommendations by Lord Justice Leveson to tackle media reporting on Muslims and other minorities – Recommendations 11 and 39.

It is vital that you undertake the following 2 simple steps to ensure that we get a Regulator that has the powers necessary to prevent the sort of discriminatory and prejudicial reporting on Islam and Muslims we have seen too often in the past:

Please also try to visit your MP at their surgery this weekend and raise these concerns in person.

You can also call your MP at his Westminster office on Monday morning and tell him/her that you disagree with the Royal Charter proposals and want him/her to vote against them in Monday’s vote. The switchboard number for the House of Commons is 020 7219 3000.

I am writing to raise my concerns over the Royal Charter proposals and what I see as concessions too far in favour of the industry.

1. I do not believe that the Royal Charter satisfies the condition that the Recognition Body is independent of Government

2. I do not believe that the Royal Charter satisfies the condition that the Recognition Body is independent of Industry

3. I do not believe that the Royal Charter faithfully delivers the Leveson recommendations for it includes a caveat permitting the exclusion of Recommendations 34-47.

This includes Recommendation 39, which calls for the Regulator to “intervene in cases of allegedly discriminatory reporting, and in so doing reflect the spirit of equalities legislation”. This is a vital inclusion by Lord Justice Leveson and designed to address the misrepresentation of minority groups in the UK and its social consequences.

4. I do not believe the Royal Charter satisfies the condition that the arbitral process should be “free for complainants to use” – the Charter proposal refers to the process as “inexpensive for complainants to use” – this is in violation of Recommendation 22.

5. I believe the Royal Charter concedes to the Industry, in neglect of Lord Leveson’s recommendation, on ‘third party complaints’.

Recommendation 11, proposed by Lord Justice Leveson, clearly states that complaints from “a representative group affected by the alleged breach, or a third party seeking to ensure accuracy of published information” should be heard by the Board of the Regulator.

The Royal Charter, however, dilutes this to address complaints only “from a third party seeking to ensure accuracy of published information”. This is a provision the current Editors’ Code of Practice caters for and one Lord Justice Leveson deemed insufficiently broad in scope to address the inadequacies of media reporting which, due to the limitations of the Code, does not permit third party complaints of a wider nature.

In response to our oral and written evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, and evidence presented by other ‘affected groups’, Lord Justice Leveson concluded that there exists:

“a significant tendency within the press which leads to the publication of prejudicial or pejorative references to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental illness or disability.”

Lord Justice Leveson stated that this could be remedied “the first steps being to amend practice and the Code to permit third party complaints”.

Recommendation 11 – introducing a ‘third party complaints clause’ – addresses this negative tendency in the press but it is not incorporated in the Royal Charter proposals.

This is wholly unsatisfactory and of great alarm to us.

The Leveson Inquiry and its report acknowledged the role of the press in perpetuating anti-Muslim bigotry; the harm caused by such careless and reckless reporting and the need for a new, independent regulatory body to address these challenges in earnest.

I an writing to urge you to reject the Royal Charter proposal and to urge the Government to adopt a position that is thorough and faithful in its regard to Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations for press reform and regulation.

Yours sincerely,

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