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Freedom of the Press - it has to be defended

Lovers of liberty support freedom of the press, so it's a pity that recent events have put it in doubt, and created a Parliamentary pile-up.

Give us a moment to cast our eyes over a more glorious history:

In 1695 Press freedom was unchained. Decades earlier, Parliament had banned all publications that did not conform to Church of England teachings. Those that were published had to receive approval under the Licensing Act. When Parliament let the Licensing Act lapse, Brits seized the new freedom with both hands. Social, political, scientific, and religious papers poured off the presses. As Winston Churchill later wrote, A free Press is the unsleeping guardian of every right that free men (and women) prize. . .

That was then. In the 21st century, the Press has hacked into private accounts, which they had no business touching, or revealing to the public. Hacking into private computers and phones is against the law. It seems unnecessary to state that the police should uphold the law.

But the appetite for sensational private information has grown, and recently the multiple victims of these intrusions have cried for justice.

With its customary rational thoughtfulness, Parliament has not insisted that the laws be upheld, with civil suits allowing for damages. Instead Parliament intends to introduce new chains for the Press.

How happy some MPs would be if they could muzzle the Press entirely, particularly Press enquiries into MP spending, speeding and sexting, their kowtowing to Brussels, or the unleashing of developers on the countryside, to name but a few.

How predictably silly the MPs are. So many of their laws cause unforeseen problems. No doubt this one will, too. Though it is also said to be a Royal Proclamation, and no law at all.

This being Wonderland, it would be good if the Press defended Press freedom by severely curtailing the venal impulses which have encouraged its members to invade personal privacy. It could also be wished that the public's craving for sensational news could be reduced.

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