Jacob Rees-Mogg MP gave a wonderful speech in the House of Commons last night defending the freedom of the press and free speech. (Click here to watch it) Speaking against Lords' amendments which, if passed into law, would require newspapers to pay double court costs even if the win a libel case, Jacob said:
"We know the weakness of our local papers and how they struggle hand to mouth, but how easy would it be, for example, for my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin), who is no longer in his place, to take to court the journal that he does not like because it said things about him that inaccurate? It is fair enough for him not to like them, but if an hon. Member took a local paper to court, that local paper would be insolvent, because many of them do not have powerful parents behind them. Many of them—I am thinking of some in my constituency—are run by entrepreneurial individuals trying to make a reasonable living. The threat of having to pay double costs would be sufficient to stop them printing a disagreeable story about us."
He went on to say;
"Free speech is not there so that Rupert Murdoch, a man I greatly admire, can make a great deal of money; it is not there so that the noble Lord Rothermere can, likewise, make a decent living; it is there because it is the pillar of democracy. If we do not have free speech, how will we expose corrupt Governments, incompetent politicians and—I dare say there are some occasionally—Governments who make mistakes? Councils that get things wrong, errors that are made and dishonesties that are performed, how will they be reported if every one of us can shut down our local newspaper just by saying that we will go to court and the newspaper will have double costs?"
The only way of avoiding these costs is to sign-up to the state authorised regulator, IMPRESS. The majority of newspapers have decided against this. IMPRESS is bankrolled by Max Mosley, so it is hardly surprising that they don't want to have anything to do with it. State authorised press regulation is bad enough without the man holding the purse strings being a free-press hater who wants to legally prevent the media from reporting about his fascist past.
We are used to fascist regimes around the world doing their upmost to bully and censure the media. But if these Lords' amendments are not removed, we will be no better than those despots who muzzle the free press on a daily basis.