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Praise for the British press for exposing MP’s expenses scandal

Wednesday, November 18th 2009 - 13:33 UTC
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Baroness Buscombe head of Britain’s Press Complaints Commission Baroness Buscombe head of Britain’s Press Complaints Commission

The head of Britain’s Press Complaints Commission has praised the exposure of Members of Parliament expenses claims - and said it showed the vital need to retain press freedom to investigate our “dysfunctional democracy”.

Baroness Buscombe said the media filled a “democratic deficit” and had a “right to feel proud” for exposing abuses of parliamentary allowances.

In a speech delivered to the Society of Editors, she said public mistrust in institutions including Parliament, the judiciary - and the media itself - would be even greater without a free press.

Addressing media representatives at an annual lecture in Stansted, Essex, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) chairman said: “Of course the fact that unfortunately we do have such a dysfunctional democracy - particularly given the House of Commons appears almost entirely to have forgotten what they are there for - means it is vital that the press is free to investigate and probe and tell it like it is.

”You can rightly feel proud that, from unravelling the Government's misleading spinning of intelligence in the Iraq War to exposing uncensored details of MPs' expenses, the British press has filled the democratic deficit in recent years.

“A lack of trust in our institutions seems to be contagious. Yet however sceptical the public may be about Parliament, the judiciary, even the media itself, think how much power it would be without a free press.”

And she said the “freer” journalists were to criticise, scrutinise, and analyse, the “more trustworthy” institutions could become.

Recognising some fellow Parliamentarians - many of whom she said were left “bruised” by recent coverage - would not welcome her words, she said politicians had to “learn the right lesson” from the coverage during the expenses furore.

An absence of scrutiny had “allowed a culture of abuse to flourish” she said, adding: “If trust in politics is at low ebb it is because there has been too little freedom to shine a light on politicians' activities, not too much.”

But she said politicians should resist the “temptation to jerk the knee” at every critical headline. “Sometimes, I'm afraid, this means ignoring the press - ironically to protect the very freedoms that many of you hold dear”.

Categories: Politics, International.

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