Independent Press is ‘fundamental’

Top Judge speaks at Press Gazette Conference

Deputy Chief Justice, Lord Justice Judge, speaking today at the Law for Journalists Conference in London said that the freedom of the press was of ‘inestimable value’.

Giving the keynote address at the beginning of the Conference attended by over 100 media lawyers and journalists, Lord Justice Judge said that the freedom was so important that it included, “the freedom to be irresponsible and the freedom to be wrong.” However, the freedom did not belong to the media but was owned by the community as a whole and the press had a duty to provide accurate and truthful information. Public support would be lost if press coverage became too intrusive.

The Judge quoted what he believed was a “clarion call” from John Wilkes (1727-1797): “The liberty of the press is the birthright of a Briton, and is justly esteemed the firmest bulwark of the liberties of this country”.

The Deputy Chief Justice – tipped by some commentators to be the next Lord Chief Justice – drew parallels between the freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary saying that both were “fundamental to liberties”. Questioning whether the way in which the media commented on the administration of justice might not lead to the erosion of these liberties, he defended the current Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf from unjustified personal attacks by certain sections of the media.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer also spoke on the new Freedom of Information Act. He said that he believed that the new rights under the Act could be used creatively and constructively to inform debate, to prevent official wrongdoing and to hold those in public office to account.

The Annual Law For Journalist’s Conference was held at the Royal Society for the Arts and was organised by Press Gazette and the Newspaper Society and sponsored by Wiggin & Co, Solicitors.