A ‘free’ press

Any democracy needs checks and balances to hold the government to account. Those constitutional checks are provided in different ways in different countries.

  • America has three pillars of government – Congress, President and Judiciary. Congress passes laws, the President can veto them, his decision can be over-ridden and the Supreme Court interprets these laws.
  • In Britain, the Government creates the laws, but they have to be agreed by both Commons and Lords and then “signed off” by the Queen with the Norman-French words “La reine le vault” (“the Queen wills it”).
  • In Germany the Bundestag is directly elected but the Bundesrat (second chamber) is made up of representatives of the Lande – the regional governments from every part of the country.

Outside those constitutional structures is the “free press” with the duty of holding them all to account in the public’s interest. It’s because they failed in that duty that we had the Leveson Inquiry.  It’s shown that sections of the national Press totally abandoned their responsibilities for a significant period of time.  Politicians of all parties also lacked courage and were intimidated by News International – but unless an independent Press is motivated by higher principles than power and profit it has no purpose and no right to be “free”.

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