Press regulation, set to be introduced in the wake of the Leveson enquiry, poses a devastating threat to our right to freedom of religious expression, says Julian Mann.
When I was a trade journalist in the early 1990s, with the robust encouragement of my editor I conducted an investigation into corruption in a retail franchise company, which badly affected the small traders who invested in the brand. The report drew a lawyer’s letter from one of the wealthy individuals whose nefarious behaviour was exposed, threatening to sue.
The incident taught me one of life’s painful lessons as a young man. A rich bully with a lawyer can often get his way without having to go to court. It requires from publishers a courageous moral commitment to the exposure of evil to back their editors. And the reality particularly for small publishers is that often such backing is just too financially risky and a compromise must be reached.
That was before the Leveson Inquiry. If in the New Year the Culture Secretary implements Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which came in Leveson’s wake, newspapers that do not join the State-sponsored press regulator would be forced to pay their opponents’ libel costs even if they win.
If this could bankrupt large national newspapers, it would turn small trade newspapers into public relations bulletins.
But my main concern now is the devastating potential effect of Leveson on Christian freedom of expression in our country. Leveson has already hugely strengthened the deadening hand of the politically correct establishment on the expression of counter-cultural views in the public square.
Armed with Section 40, a rich anti-Christian bully with a lawyer has even more power to silence newspapers that expose in news reports his or her ill treatment of the followers of Jesus Christ. With news reporting repressed, comment would follow and secular newspapers would be less likely to run pieces that advance orthodox Christian opinions.
Leveson would thus lead to the gagging of God in the national press and that would be its most poisonous legacy.