Three of the most vocal supporters of the Leveson proposals to impose statutory control of the press are actors Hugh Grant & Steve Coogan and former motor racing supremo Max Mosley – each of whom has an axe to grind about press reports of some of their more lively activities. Fighting alongside them are two Labour MPs, Tom Watson and Chris Bryant whose names figured large in the MPs expenses scandal.
Perhaps it was to these five individuals that Sara Payne, whose daughter was raped and murdered by a paedophile in 2000, was referring when she recently stated her opposition to the Leveson proposals despite having been a victim of press intrusion herself
It is important that celebrities and MPs, whose own moral shortcomings may have been exposed by the Press, are not allowed to hijack this vital overhaul.
Time, I think, to recall the words of John Milton who in 1644 penned the magnificent and majestic Areopagitica, still the most impressive defence of a press free from government censorship and licensing ever written
Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?
Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be monopolized and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. We must not think to make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in the land, to mark and license it like our broadcloth and our woolpacks
Or maybe we should just echo Wordsworth’s famous plea
MILTON! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee