A report prepared for the
International Federation of Journalists into a controversy over illegal
telephone hacking in the tabloid press in Britain says that the country's self-regulator
is in need of urgent reform to enhance the reputation of British journalism.
The report was commissioned by the
IFJ after the British Press Complaints Commission carried out two inquiries
following claims of illegal tapping of the telephones of celebrities by
journalists at The News of the World, the flagship title of the Rupert
Murdoch press in Britain.
The claims, made by The Guardian, were dismissed by the PCC which accepted the tabloid management's view that
the actions of two employees who were jailed in January 2007 for illegal
hacking were an isolated incident.
However, fresh Guardian claims
following extensive and secretive payouts to the victims of the hacking system
last year led to a second inquiry. The PCC again accepted the News of the
World's view and this time rebuked The Guardian, sparking a row
which led The Guardian's editor to resign from his place on the
The IFJ Report, prepared by Belgian
journalist and writer Jean-Paul Marthoz, has found that the actions of the PCC
have weakened its credibility and revealed major failings in its mandate and
its ways of operating.
"A critical moment has arrived and
the case for reform of the PCC appears to be unanswerable," says Marthoz in his
report which is published today and comes only a week after a Select Committee
of the British Parliament issued its own damning report backing the view that
the hacking has been more widespread than officially acknowledged and
condemning the "collective amnesia" and "deliberate obfuscation" by the News
of the World in its evidence to the Select Committee inquiry into illegal
The Committee also lambasted the
PCC, qualifying its investigation into phone hacking as "simplistic,
surprising, a further failure of self-regulation."
"It is clear that the PCC got itself
into the no-man's-land of ethical journalism," said Aidan White, IFJ General
Secretary today. "Our report shows that it was hopelessly caught between two
forces at work in journalism that pull in diametrically opposing directions. In
doing so it exposed its own profound weakness as a credible self-regulator."
The IFJ report was commissioned as
part of the IFJ Ethical Journalism Initiative, a global campaign supporting
ethical conduct in journalism and calling for credible and transparent forms of
self-regulation in media.
The report is to be a case study
included in a book on media accountability systems to be published later this
In his report Marthoz highlights a
number of key reforms that could rebuild trust in a self-regulator for the
British Press, including adopting the right of reply for people who are victims
of press misbehaviour, a clause of conscience to allow journalists to opt out
of unethical working practice and for more transparency in all areas of its operational
He suggests that it must establish
its independence from the British press industry and be more transparent about
its funding - at the moment the financial contributions of newspapers are kept
He also argues that it needs to have
the power and mandate to carry out proper investigations and he describes its
inquiries into the hacking affair as wholly inadequate.
He calls for a paradigm shift that
would give a reformed regulator the voice and authority to speak out over press
standards and to eliminate the impression that its current role is to be the
defender of a press industry that is increasingly short of public confidence.
"The time has come for partisans of
self-regulation to demonstrate the value of journalism as a public good,"
concludes Marthoz "and media's real commitment to the highest ethical standards
in a profession that is a key pillar of a vibrant and principled democracy."
Jean-Paul Marthoz: +32 479278643
Aidan White: +32 478258669
IFJ Ethical Journalism Initiative" www.ethicaljournalisminitiative.org