UK Ministers have blocked an amendment proposed by a Labour MP that would have required news outlets to register with a dystopian independent regulator. The amendment was tabled by MP Kim Leadbeater under the Online Safety Bill, a proposed legislation that is already bad enough, focused on cracking down on “hate speech” and other “harmful” content on the internet.
Leadbeater’s amendment proposed that “all print and online media seeking to benefit from the exemption should be independently regulated.” Critics noted it was similar to the Leveson inquiry of 2014, which recommended the formation of a state-approved regulator for the press.
Leadbeater insists that the current draft bill could be abused, the Times reported.
“The internet is full of groups describing themselves as news publishers, but which distribute profoundly damaging and dangerous material designed to promote extremist ideologies and foment hatred,” she said. “Is it really the intention of the government that any organization meeting their loose criteria as currently drafted in the bill should be afforded those sacrosanct rights and freedoms of the press that we all seek to defend?”
She added: “This bill must protect freedom of expression, and in particular, the freedom of the press – a freedom that I know we are all committed to upholding and defending.
“However, in evaluating the balance between freedom of the press and freedom to enjoy the digital world without encountering harm, the bill as drafted has far too many loopholes and risks granting legal protection to those wishing to spread harmful content and disinformation in the name of ‘journalism.’
Junior Culture Minister Chris Philp said the government dismissed the proposed amendment because regulating the press constitutes a violation of press freedom.
“If the amendment was adopted in the way it has been written, then it would effectively be requiring news publishers . . . to register with one of these regulators,” Philp said.
“I want to put it on record very clearly that, for reasons of freedom of the press, this government does not support any kind of mandatory or statutory press regulation of any form. We think to do so would unreasonably restrict the freedom of the press.”