'˜Reviewer' to oversee press standards in NI

An '˜independent reviewer' will be appointed to scrutinise press standards in Northern Ireland, it has been announced.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 10th May 2018, 6:30 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:31 am
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock. PA Wire
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock. PA Wire

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the proposal at Westminster yesterday, where it was dubbed “Leveson for Northern Ireland” by DUP MP Ian Paisley.

Unlike the Leveson Inquiry referred to by Mr Paisley, however, the new review will not be a full judicial public inquiry.

Instead, there is to be a four-year, UK-wide review of press standards, due to commence following the introduction of new data protection legislation.

Mr Hancock said there would be a “named person “ to review the standards of the press in Northern Ireland, where certain laws relating to the media differ from other parts of the UK.

He said this would happen “as part of and alongside” the four-year UK-wide review.

The announcement was made amid a debate on whether to establish a new inquiry into media and police relations.

Labour MP Ed Miliband had proposed an amendment to the Data Protection Bill to establish a statutory inquiry, dubbed Leveson part two.

But this was rejected by 304 votes to 295, a majority of nine, when pushed to a vote.

Speaking to the News Letter after the debate, Mr Paisley said: “The reason Northern Ireland is being specifically mentioned is that it was left out of the original Leveson Inquiry. Now, as the victim of phone hacking from a Northern Ireland newsroom, that just wasn’t good enough.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt, a former journalist, gave his reaction.

“The Northern Ireland media play an incredibly important role, even when we have a working Executive, because there is no second chamber at Stormont or statutory role for an official opposition as happens in London and Dublin,” he said.

“For that reason, our media should be willing and keen to be scrutinised to ensure they are factual, open, transparent and honest about their reporting, including their right to promote a political viewpoint, excepting the BBC and UTV.”

He added: “It is a question of who or what body represents independent scrutiny and I am uncomfortable with the idea of trusting politicians to make those decisions.”

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “As in the government amendment, we have proposed a statutory review of journalists’ compliance with the new data protection regulations in four years from Royal Assent of the Bill. Within this ICO (information commissioner’s office) review, or aligned to it, we will make sure there is an independent named reviewer for Northern Ireland.”