IFJ Report on Hacking Row Exposes Weakness of UK Press Complaints Commission: "Case for Reform is Unanswerable"

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

phone hacking.

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." 

Further information:

Jean-Paul Marthoz: +32 479278643

Aidan White: +32 478258669

IFJ Ethical Journalism Initiative" www.ethicaljournalisminitiative.org