Brian Leveson will publish an important report into the News International phone-hacking scandal later today, raising concerns of press freedoms in the United Kingdom and igniting tensions within the coalition government.
Judge Leveson was appointed by prime minister David Cameron in July 2011 to examine the conduct and state of the British press. Cameron’s handling of the report could divide his coalition, and anger an already hostile press.
Cameron and his predecessor Tony Blair were brought to testify at the final leg of the inquiry about their relationship with the chairman and founder of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch also appeared at a hearing with his son James, who stepped down as the chairman of News International earlier this year.
The British press is currently under a system of self-regulation through the Press Complaints Commission, which is staffed by editors. The report is expected to include recommendations for statutory regulation of the press after a year-long judicial inquiry into press ethics.
‘Too early to say’
More than 80 British legislators from three major parties stated in a letter on Wednesday that the introduction of any statutory regulation would be the biggest blow to media freedom in Britain for 300 years.
Nick Clegg, leader of the the Liberal Democrats, has requested to make a statement in parliament later today, should he disagree with Cameron’s position on the report.
Reports suggest it is still “too early to say” on the developments of the report, after Clegg met Cameron to discuss the issue at the PM’s Downing Street office. Cameron stated on Wednesday that Britain’s current newspaper system is unacceptable and that the “status quo” needs to change.
The chief executive of News International, Tom Mockridge, who replaced Rebekah Brooks – a central figure in the phone-hacking scandal that prompted the inquiry – warned against a state-backed regulation but admitted that newspapers “need a watchdog with bite and a watchdog with investigative powers.”
A parliamentary debate is set to take place next week on the recommendations of the judicial report, followed by a probable non-binding vote.