Eve of Leveson inquiry report sees lawmakers divided on press freedom (VIDEO)


Newspapers are displayed on a stand outside a newsagent on November 28, 2012 in London, England. The findings of the Leveson Inquiry which focused on the culture, practices and ethics of the press, is due to be published tomorrow by Lord Justice Leveson after an 18 month inquiry.


Dan Kitwood

The day before the report from the Leveson inquiry was expected, more than 80 British lawmakers expressed their support for press freedom, which would be undermined by laws enforcing controls on the media.

"As parliamentarians, we believe in free speech and are opposed to the imposition of any form of statutory control even if it is dressed up as underpinning," said the group of 86 legislators, according to The New York Times.

The letter was published on the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph websites hours before Prime Minister David Cameron received his copy of the report, based on hearings conducted into the phone hacking scandal centering around Rupert Murdoch's News of the World.

According to the BBC, the report, which runs hundreds of pages long, proposes better regulation of the media and criticizes the press, politicians and the police.

The press is currently self-regulated through the Press Complaints Commission, said the BBC, but the Leveson report is expected to suggest statutory regulation overseen by an independent body.

More on GlobalPost: Tony Blair warns leaving EU would be 'monumental error'

The issue seems to have UK politicians split, with even some of Cameron's own members of parliament and Cabinet taking opposing positions. Cameron told parliament, "The status quo, I would argue, does not just need updating — the status quo is unacceptable and needs to change."

"This government set up Leveson because of unacceptable practices in parts of the media and because of a failed regulatory system," he said, according to Reuters.

On the streets of London, GlobalPost's Barry Neild found opinions to be unanimously against government interference on press freedoms. But there were mixed ideas about what press regulations should be put in place.

"If the state has control over the media it's a slippery slope and it would be hard to see the difference between us and China," Camille Adams, a 41-year-old wardrobe stylist, told Neild.

Rosemary Turberville Smith, 68, said legal authority could be used to strike a balance between press freedom and responsible journalism. "Self-regulation is probably best but I think it needs to be backed by the law," she said.

"Maybe something could be done to address the bias towards sensational and negative news. Perhaps forcing newspapers to dedicate a proportion of their publication to positive news stories," she told Neild.

The prime minister also fielded questions about the inquiry at Prime Minister's Questions, a weekly session with parliament, according to the Daily Telegraph. Watch below:

GlobalPost's Barry Neild contributed reporting from London.