03:28 GMT30 May 2020
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    A proposal to launch the second stage of the Leveson inquiry into the press ethics suffered a parliamentary defeat due to a "morally indefensible" deal between the UK government and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Brian Cathcart, a journalist and co-founder of the press accountability campaign group Hacked Off told, Sputnik.

    "It was a very close call and it was only won by the government because they made a completely morally indefensible deal with the DUP. Instead of us all getting a Leveson II the DUP have been offered a Leveson inquiry for Northern Ireland alone. The deal with the DUP is a disgrace," Cathcart said.

    The campaigner explained the UK government’s opposition to the inquiry by its fear of losing support of influential media outlets which did not favor the probe.

    "Let's be absolutely clear; nobody had any meaningful arguments against Leveson II. There's no moral element to this, no element of justice, fairness or sound public policy. This is just a matter of the government not wanting to lose this vote as they don't want to lose the support of the right-wing and corporate press. They can't afford that so they were prepared to do anything. I don't think any leading Conservative could genuinely claim that they are not extremely close to the leadership of the Murdoch papers, particularly," he noted.

    According to Cathcart, the deal derailing a probe into press ethics represents a major blow to journalism, since it undermines public trust in the press.

    "They did whatever it took to win this, and they won it. There's nothing here about the rights and wrongs of it, freedom of speech or the sensible use of public money, it's just an utterly cynical and pragmatic deal between them and the DUP. The situation is just ridiculous and it can't go on. But the price we pay, the costs they are incurring is not just to them but to journalism. We're supposed to be worried about fake news, but these people are tearing up [and] shredding the trust [that] people have in journalism in this country, and every time they do something like this they make it worse," he argued.

    Cathcart stressed that the move was especially regrettable at a time when the world was struggling to tackle the spread of fake news.

    "Journalism is being damaged, and could be damaged in the long-term by the threat of fake news and the inability to counter it," the campaigner concluded.

    On Wednesday, former Labor leader Ed Miliband tabled a proposal to re-activate the second stage of the so-called Leveson investigation, which the UK government had decided to end earlier in March. The vote was defeated by a narrow vote of 304 to 295, supposedly as a result of a deal struck by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock with the DUP, in which he pledged a Leveson inquiry to Northern Ireland alone.

    The Leveson inquiry, named after the judge appointed to oversee the investigation, was initiated back in 2011 following widespread accounts of unethical conduct by multiple journalists, including high-profile phone hacking scandals and cases of personal data theft. The second stage of the inquiry was meant to investigate "unlawful or improper conduct" by journalists but soon met bitter opposition and was canceled by Culture Secretary Hancock.

    During the Wednesday vote, even such prominent Conservative members of parliament as Kenneth Clarke and Crispin Blunt crossed over to uphold the investigation, with the government prompted to resort to help of its partner DUP.

    Following the June snap vote, which resulted in a hung parliament, the Conservatives had to strike a deal with the DUP on parliamentary support.


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    scandals, opposition, vote, media, press ethics, investigation, Leveson inquiry, Hacked Off, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Brian Cathcart, United Kingdom
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