Ian Hislop warns against introducing privacy laws
Published 17/01/2012 | 13:19
PRIVATE editor Ian Hislop today rejected calls for statutory regulation of the press, saying laws were already in place to tackle abuses like phone hacking.
He told the Leveson Inquiry that the laws were not rigorously enforced because of the close relationship police and politicians had with senior media executives.
Mr Hislop defended the use of "blagging" by journalists carrying out investigations into wrongdoing and warned against introducing strict privacy laws like those found in France.
Mr Hislop said: "I do think that statutory regulation is not required. Most of the heinous crimes that came up and have made such a splash in front of this inquiry have already been illegal.
"Contempt of court is illegal, phone tapping is illegal, policemen taking money is illegal. All of these things don't need a code, we already have laws for them.
"The fact that these laws were not rigorously enforced is again due to the failure of the police, the interaction of the police and News International - and let's be honest about this, the fact that our politicians have been very, very involved in ways that I think are not sensible with senior News International people."
He said he hoped that inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson would call British Prime Minister David Cameron and his predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to give evidence.
Mr Hislop called for action to be taken to reduce the potentially crippling costs of libel and privacy actions brought against publishers.
"I think justice should be cheaper and faster. I think there should be early resolution. I think you should be able to have a judgment on meaning far quicker than you currently get in the court," he said.
"There are plenty of ways to speed up justice through the courts if you think the courts is the right way."
Referring to proposals to introduce stricter privacy laws in Britain, he cited the French press's difficulties in exposing the fact that "the minister in charge of raising taxes was paying no taxes".
He said: "The French situation is terrible. They are now catching up on about two decades of news...
"They are incredibly slow because of this extraordinary reluctance to look at the private lives of the people who ran them."
Mr Hislop said journalists could be justified in employing "blagging", the use of subterfuge to obtain information.
"I don't throw my hands up at blagging. There have been some very effective blags," he said.
"For example, the Channel 4 programme where someone pretended to be a lobbyist and a number of greedy MPs and members of the House of Lords came and offered to offer their services."
He also alleged that Mohamed al Fayed commissioned Benjamin Pell, better known as "Benji the Binman", to rifle through Private Eye's rubbish.
"We put a camera up and found out Benji was going through our bins. Mr Fayed was looking for things to print about Private Eye at the time."
Asked if he had evidence of Mr al Fayed's involvement, he said: "I think the fact that it appeared in Punch, which he owned, was a giveaway."