We ask the questions

22 November 2012

2:56 PM

22 November 2012

2:56 PM

The enemies of a free press, also known as the mysteriously funded Hacked Off campaign, are positively salivating at the prospect of new legislation to regulate the press. I hear that their press conference, held after lobbying the three party leaders, at Four Millbank yesterday gave a glimpse of things to come.

Professor Brian Cathcart and former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris waxed lyrical about their relentless pursuit of justice for their celebrity backers like Hugh Grant, and the lesser known victims of press mistreatment. Despite being promised the chance to quiz the victims, journalists in the room got increasingly irate as the double act hogged the limelight.


The tension boiled over when various broadcasters asked for victims to speak, a request seconded by their ink-based colleagues. It got very awkward when one journo said – aimed at Evan Harris – ‘we’ve come to hear from the victims not from a failed MP’. My spy in the room reckons Harris looked ready to jump off stage and chin him. I hear the hack in question ‘thought he was going to get hauled off’.

Proceedings were abruptly called to a halt with the promise that ‘a press release with victims’ words will be going out shortly’, and the event was wound up sharpish. Is this the kind of censorship Harris would like Sir Brian Leveson to recommend next week?

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Show comments
  • Andrew Webb

    Hugh Grant is a talented guy – he’s wasting his time and energy on this pseudo-organization.

  • Peter Martin

    At times like this, a video is called for:

  • Colonel Mustard

    No mysterious funding. Common Purpose. Using emotional blackmail from victims is now well established as an unarguable imperative for new laws. These people are poison. Expose them.

  • Harold Angryperson

    More important than Leveson, looking at the photo above – does George Romero know that one of his Zombies has escaped?

    • Remittance Man

      Only one? I count two full blown brain munchers and one in transition.

  • Charlie the Chump

    Look Harris in the eye. Would you let this man touch your testicles?
    Thought not.
    Good weekend everyone.

  • Sarah

    You mean the free press turned up in unison to rubberneck and in unison the free press was disappointed?

    Aww. I’m wearing my sad face tights.

  • sir_graphus

    There’s a price worth paying for a free press; it looks like celebs have to pay all of it, but there you go, that’s part of being a celeb.

    • Latimer Alder

      Being feted and fawned over as a celebrity is a two-edged sword.

      I wonder how many celebs did not court the press attention at one time

  • ButcombeMan

    Is the funding so mysterious? Esmee Fairburn trust seems to loom large. Look at the relationships and the people. It is what the Daily Mail exposed a week or so ago. Does it all revolve around Common Purpose?

    I think so.

  • Mark Lewis

    Whether or not you agree with Hacked Off, there are various issues that should be resolved. The previous system failed.

    I was at that press conference. I am not sure that the description of answering questions is right (as a journalist I am sure you would want to find out what happened). Ben Webster from the Times asked a question about regulating the internet. Evan Harris said the conference was about the meeting that had just taken place with the party leaders, although he was happy to answer that question if Ben Webster contacted him (Ben said he had called the day before).

    Victims of the press then spoke out and answered questions. They were available to answer more.

    I do think it is wrong to characterise Hacked Off as “enemies of a free press”. Rather the opposite is true. What has been called for is a press that is not restricted by the politics and decisions of the owners. Where was the press when there was the revelation of phone hacking in 2006? Where was it when the Guardian did its piece in 2009? I think you’ll find that the PCC described the Guardian story as “not living up to its billing”.

    A little research will show that Evan Harris was a leading light in the Libel Reform Campaign aimed to stop libel tourism and libel bullying using the chilling effect to stop challenges to scientists. Surely what we want is a system where the MP’s expenses scandal can be exposed whilst at the same time ordinary people such as victims of crime are not harassed?

    Leveson was not just looking at the Press but also the relationship with Politics and the Police. Those matters need to be investigated so that there is a more open system not a closed one that pretends to be free.

    • Andrew Webb

      I think you’re being naive. It all looks OK on the surface, but all the crimes this enquiry highlighted were already illegal: contempt of court, phone tapping, policemen taking money etc, just not rigorously enforced. That was never the fault of News International but of the police. If the laws are already in place why the need for Leveson?

      The reality is that the pseudo-charity Media Standards Trust is anything but independant. You probably know about the Common Purpose connection. A little journalistic digging also reveals connections to many vested interests: the Guardian Media Group, N M Rothchild, Goldman Sachs, the Cabinet Behavioural Change Unit – the list goes on and on.

      The Guardian broke the story of the hacking of Milly Dowler’s
      voicemail on 4th July 2011. The MST set up ‘’ on 5th July 2011, the domain name registered on 15 June, two weeks before the hacking scandal broke. A little strange, yes? The likelihood is that this information was gleaned via Common Purpose’s network of insiders.

      Concerns raised with the Leveson Inquiry include his connections with Common Purpose and its background in breaches of Data Protection, Membership Secrecy, insider dealing at Cabinet Office level to win contracts, insider dealing to procure publicfunding, failure to procure CRB checks, blatant hostility to public scrutiny via Freedom of Information, and the promotion of secret

  • Hacked Off Press

    This statement from Hacked Off on behalf of victims of press intrusion and phone hacking is published in response to the news that the Leveson Inquiry report will be
    published on Thursday 29th November. It is signed by Professor Brian Cathcart, Director of Hacked Off along with Magnus Boyd, Jacqui Hames, Steven Heffer, Mike Hollingsworth, Martin Hollins, Christopher Jefferies, Zoe Margolis, Kate and Gerry McCann, Michele Milburn, Ben Noakes, Amanda Ramsey, Tom Rowland, Sivendran Nadarajah, Joan Smith and Parameswaran Subramanyam.

    ** *** **

    “This is a moment of truth for the British newspaper industry.

    “We’ve seen months of false propaganda from some sections of the press, trying to undermine the 14-month long Leveson Inquiry process and smear the reputations of members of the Inquiry team.

    “The megaphone of the press has been blasting out loud and clear, drowning out the
    views of those such as the McCanns, the Dowlers and Christopher Jefferies who
    have suffered from the effects of reckless and cruel coverage.

    “Members of the public who endured the most dreadful intrusions into their private lives want the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry to be acted upon swiftly.

    “Victims of abuses by the press must not be left out of this debate. The voice of the
    victims must now be heard.

    “We are struck that reliable opinion research* shows that three quarters of the country believes that the time has come for radical change in the press and that all
    three of the main party leaders we met yesterday agree with this.

    “Lord Justice Leveson was given this task amid public outrage last year over the industrial use of phone hacking by newspapers and he has taken painstakingly taken
    evidence from every interested party.

    “We await his report with hope.”

    • Colonel Mustard

      Ah, those words “radical change” again. Time to remind you that you are a pressure group, that you are unelected and that you do not represent ME.