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J.K. Rowling, Hugh Grant-Fronted Group Reiterate Call for Strict U.K. Press Regulation

TELEVISION: J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling

In an open letter, they call on British prime minister David Cameron to reject a self regulator proposed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and others.

LONDON - Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and other supporters of Hacked Off, a group campaigning for U.K. press reform, have urged prime minister David Cameron to reject plans for a newspaper industry self regulator.

A public letter from Hacked Off, signed by Rowling and others, argues that publishers have engaged in a "cynical maneuver" to delay the approval of a so-called royal charter that all major parties agreed on in March, which provided the broad outlines of new regulations. The charter was based on the findings of the Leveson Inquiry into U.K. media ethics and standards, which was launched amid the phone-hacking scandal.

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"We are dismayed by the attitude of the leaders of much of the press industry," Hacked Off, for which actor Hugh Grant has served as one of the public faces, said in its letter. "They have shown no real regret for the grave failures identified in the report of the Leveson Inquiry, nor have they engaged in sincere dialog."

The letter was published before a Tuesday session in the liaison committee of the British House of Commons. Cameron was set to answer questions on the progress of press reform there.

Several publishers have said they plan to set up a self regulator dubbed Independent Press Standards Organization (Ipso). Among the supporters are News UK, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and other big publishers, such as Telegraph Media Group, Trinity Mirror and magazine groups.

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The letter said that Ipso "clearly lacks the key elements of independence and effectiveness" that Leveson had identified as "essential if the public is to be protected."

Concluded the letter: "Several papers continue to abuse the power of the press in the attempt to discredit the Leveson Inquiry and those who challenge them and to seek to bend politicians to their will.... If they continue to insist that they may regulate themselves in the way that suits them...the result will inevitably be even deeper public distrust and, without any doubt, many more victims of press cruelty and excess of the kind we have experienced."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai