British press needs regulator, says phone-hacking inquiry
Lord Leveson concludes today a yearlong inquiry into the practices of the British press, including tabloids accused of illegal phone hacking.
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Leveson heard evidence from hundreds of journalists, politicians, lawyers and victims of press intrusion during months of hearings that provided a dramatic, sometimes comic and often poignant window on the workings of the media. Witnesses ranged from celebrities such as Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and Hugh Grant – who both complained of intrusive treatment – to Dowlers, who described how learning that their daughter's voicemail had been accessed had given them false hope that she was alive.Skip to next paragraph
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Leveson said that the ongoing criminal investigation constrained him from accusing other newspapers of illegal behavior, but argued there was a subculture of unethical behavior "within some parts of some titles."
While many editors have denied knowing about phone hacking, Leveson said it "was far more than a covert, secret activity, known to nobody save one or two practitioners of the 'dark arts.'"
More broadly, he said newspapers had been guilty of "recklessness in prioritizing sensational stories almost irrespective of the harm the stories may cause."
"In each case, the impact has been real and, in some cases, devastating," the judge said.
The hacking scandal has rocked Britain's press, political and police establishments, who were revealed to enjoy an often cozy relationship in which drinks, dinners and sometimes money were traded for influence and information.
Leveson said over the past three decades, political parties "have had or developed too close a relationship with the press in a way which has not been in the public interest."
He acquitted senior politicians of wrongdoing, but recommended that political parties publish statements "setting out, for the public, an explanation of the approach they propose to take as a matter of party policy in conducting relationships with the press."
Parliament will have to approve the legal changes the report recommends, and Mr. Cameron is under intense pressure from both sides. He is also tainted by his own ties to prominent figures in the scandal.
Former Murdoch editors and journalists charged with phone hacking, police bribery, or other wrongdoing include Cameron's former spokesman, Andy Coulson, and ex-News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, a friend of the prime minister.
Mr. Coulson and Ms. Brooks were appearing in court Thursday on charges of paying public officials for information.