J.K. Rowling, John Cleese, Directors Support New U.K. Press Self-Regulation

J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling
 

LONDON -- Filmmakers Alan Parker, Michael Apted, Terry Gilliam and Stephen Daldry are among more than 100 prominent people from the fields of the arts, literature, science and academia who have signed a declaration of support for a new system of U.K. press self-regulation that was first proposed a year ago in the final Leveson Inquiry report, but has been held back by continuing political and industry debate.

The list of celebrities also includes comedian John Cleese, musician Bryan Adams, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, author Helen Fielding, actor and musician Riz Ahmed, novelist Monica Ali and TV host Clare Balding.

Other prominent media names signing up in support include writers Alan Bennett, William Boyd and Irvine Welsh and film writer/director Bill Forsyth. Former Sun editor David Yelland is also one of the signatories.

They have joined with victims of past press abuse to launch the declaration in time for the anniversary of the publication of the much-vaunted report into press regulation -- published after months of evidence in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed News Corp's former tabloid The News of the World. The discussion was led by judge Brian Leveson.

Signatories of the document urge U.K. newspapers to embrace the proposed royal charter that would underpin the new self-regulatory system. Supporters have said the system would protect newspapers from political interference, while many in the industry have said it doesn't provide enough such safeguards.

The declaration says that those signing believe "that a free press is a cornerstone of democracy. It should be fearless in exposing corruption, holding the powerful to account and championing the powerless. It has nothing to lose, and can only be enhanced, by acknowledging unethical practice in its midst and acting firmly to ensure it is not repeated. We also believe that editors and journalists will rise in public esteem when they accept a form of self-regulation that is independently."

It concludes: "It is our view that this charter safeguards the press from political interference, while also giving vital protection to the vulnerable. That is why we support it and that is why we urge newspaper publishers to embrace it."

The declaration has been coordinated and published by Hacked Off, the campaign for a free and accountable press fronted by Hugh Grant.

The royal charter system calls for punitive penalties on publications that choose not to sign up, but there are already rumblings across the traditionally combative U.K. newspaper industry that it may be the first charter that no company signs up to.

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