Three Bits of News About the News You May Have Missed This Week – 14/01/18

1. House of Lords backs Section 40 and Leveson Two

On the evening of Wednesday 10th January, the House of Lords passed two amendments to the government’s Data Protection Bill backing the implementation of Section 40 and giving the go ahead for part two of the Leveson Inquiry.

The Leveson Inquiry is a judicial public inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Leveson and convened in 2011 after the News International phone hacking scandal to investigate corrupt behavior by the British press. Part 1 of the inquiry examined the culture, practices and ethics of the press as well as the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians.

A wide range of witnesses, including newspaper reporters, management, proprietors, police officers and politicians of all parties, gave evidence to the inquiry under oath and in public. Leveson delivered his report on part 1 of the inquiry in November 2012. The second part of the inquiry was suspended until all necessary police investigations and subsequent criminal proceedings were officially completed. It will investigate in detail the phone hacking scandal that precipitated its inception.

Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act will force news publishers to pay both sides’ legal costs in libel and privacy cases, win or lose, if they are not signed up to a Royal Charter-supported press regulator such as Impress. Impress was approved as the new press regulator after an independent body determined that it met the standards for an independent regulator as laid out in the report on the first part of the Leveson inquiry.

According to Press Gazette the News Media Association (NMA) has warned that the amendments constitute a “backdoor route” to “state-backed press regulation and obstruct investigative journalism, diminishing the public right to know”.

The new Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, tweeted in response to the vote: “House of Lords have just voted to restrict press freedoms. This vote will undermine high quality journalism, fail to resolve challenges the media face and is a hammer blow to local press. We support a free press and will seek to overturn these amendments in the Commons”. Press Gazette reported that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, also vowed to overturn the vote in the House of Commons.

In response to the vote, Dr Evan Harris, chairman of Hacked Off, an organization created to campaign for a free and accountable press said: ““This vote reaffirms Parliament’s longstanding commitment to get to the bottom of the press misconduct, illegality and corruption scandal, in the face of waves of press pressure and misinformation, and Government equivocation. The victims of press corruption… deserve to know the truth about the illegal and corrupt practices which occurred…

“We urge the Government to proceed with the second part of the Leveson Inquiry immediately, having heard the will of Parliament over this matter yet again. This vote insists that a promised inquiry into allegations of a cover-up should proceed, and if it was any other industry the press would be at the front of the queue. However, when it is their own conduct that is to be investigated by a judge, they use their megaphone to announce the death of press freedom. Such self-serving hypocrisy is breath-taking from those who usually say sunlight is the best disinfectant”.


2. Fox Journalist Shepard Smith Fact-Checked President Donald Trump’s Claim That the Russia Investigation is a “Democratic Hoax”

Here’s what he said:

“I’m Shepard Smith, Fox News, New York. Now continuing on Fox News Channel across the country and around the world, the president again calling the Russia investigation a “Democratic hoax.” It is not. Fox News has been reporting and will continue to report that two people have pleaded guilty, Mike Flynn, the former national security advisor, guilty of lying to the FBI about matters Russia.

“George Papadopoulos, former Trump foreign policy advisor, guilty of lying to the FBI about communications with people reported to be from the Russian government. Paul Manafort, the campaign manager, Rick Gates, both indicted and the investigation continues reportedly into Trump team ties to Russians and potential money laundering and the rest”.

This is not the first time that he has fact-checked the President’s inaccurate claims about the Russia investigation. In December last year, he said that Flynn’s guilty plea undermined the President’s claim that the probe is “fake news”. Smith’s stance is a rare one on Fox News, which is usually a political safe space for President Trump and his allies.


3. New Research Suggests Global Support for Unbiased Political Coverage

A new report from the Pew Research Center suggests that global publics overwhelmingly agree that the news media should provide unbiased coverage of political issues. However, the survey of 38 countries around the world showed mixed results when participants were asked about the performance of their local news media in this regard.

A median (the middle number in a list of figures sorted in ascending or descending order; i.e. between the 19th and 20th out of 38 countries) of 52% across the nations polled said that the news media in their country did a good job of reporting fairly on political issues; 44% said they did not. The countries which were most critical of their news media include: Spain, Greece, South Korea, Lebanon and Chile. In these countries, around six out of ten said that their news media did not do a good job at reporting the news fairly.

The U.S. was one of a few countries where governing party supporters were less satisfied with their news media than non-supporters. In most countries, those who supported the political party currently on power were more likely to be satisfied with the performance of their media than those who did not support the governing party.


Honorable Mentions

Naomi Smith

Naomi is a freelance writer based in London, UK. She is studying for a Master's degree in Investigative Reporting at Birkbeck College. She can also be found writing about gaming and films at Her hobbies include media reform, online video, writing short stories and travelling the world.