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British PM tight-lipped ahead of Leveson report release

Thursday 29 Nov 2012 2:39 p.m.

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By Gregory Katz

British Prime Minister David Cameron has failed to offer any clues on whether he will support new more stringent regulation of Britain's press following the conclusion of a yearlong inquiry into the country's unruly tabloids.

Cameron got a sneak preview of Lord Justice Brian Leveson's report, which is set for public release overnight. But in carefully crafted remarks that shielded how he would respond to the judge's recommendations, Cameron told lawmakers he wanted all of the major parties to agree on the next step.

"Whatever the changes we make, we want a robust and free press in our country," Cameron said.

The inquiry was launched after revelations of widespread illegal behaviour at the News of the World, the top-selling Sunday publication that was eventually closed by its owner, Rupert Murdoch's News International.

The scandal rocked Britain's establishment with evidence of media misdeeds, police corruption and too-cosy links between the press and politicians.

And News International, which is part of New York listed News Corp., has been hit with dozens of lawsuits over the interception of telephone voicemails. Reporters and executives have been arrested - and the entire media supervision system has been called into question.

The essential issue swirling around the report is whether the government will pass new laws to curb the press, possibly involving the creation of a new regulatory body, or whether some modifications can be made to the current system whereby the press monitors itself, so-called self-regulation.

Cameron declined to respond to members of his own Conservative Party, who are pressuring the government to pass new laws. Instead, he said he would meet with opposition leaders about the report's contents in a quest for cross-party support.

"What matters most I believe is that we end up with an independent regulatory system that can deliver, and in which the public have confidence," he said.

Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour opposition, said she agreed with Cameron's comments, telling the BBC the present system had failed.

"Yes, it has to be independent of government and politics and Parliament. We don't want to have anything to do with regulating the press," she said. "But it's also got to be independent of newspapers. You can't have the editors marking their own homework in the way they have been doing in the past."

Leaders of Britain's opposition parties will also get advance copies of the report.


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