Ivan the Terrible…policy maker.

Shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis has recently conjured up a storm amongst journalists nationwide, by suggesting that journalists found to be guilty of “gross malpractice” should be “struck off”. Lewis, MP for Bury South, claims that the current system of media self-regulation is “broken” and that journalists should be licensed to practice, Similar to GP’s.

Under his suggested policy, a journalist found to be guilty of “gross malpractice” would be taken off the register, and prohibited from publishing future work.

These remarks come as a result of the Hackgate Scandal, which has severely damaged the reputation of the British press, left the public with a soiled view of the media, and left politicians scratching their heads over what to do about it all. It is blatantly obvious that action must be taken to prevent such negligence in the future, and also to punish those who are found to be guilty of phone-hacking, however this should be left to the criminal justice system.

If a journalist is found to have committed a crime, then by all means, charge them, try them, and jail them if necessary. However, preventing someone from airing their views, or publishing work is – I believe – the first step on a slippery slope toward the restriction of free-speech.

Lewis and the Labour Party have come under intense criticism for these remarks, and rightly so, as any potential government or politician that advocates barring journalists from publishing their work, clearly has a problem in grasping the concepts of free-speech and democracy. Lewis later claimed on Twitter that he stood by his remarks, stating:

“Journalism is a highly respected profession. Why shouldn’t journalists found  to have commissioned or engaged in phone hacking be struck off?”

He later added however that he was not proposing that journalists should be licensed by the government but by the industry itself.

“I said industry should consider whether gross malpractice should lead  to a journalist being struck off and I oppose state oversight of press.”

The Labour Party was quick to back-peddle from Lewis’ remarks, with leader Ed Miliband essentially disowning the ludicrous policy, with advisors insisting this policy had not been cleared by Miliband. Former advisor to the Labour Party, Dan Hodges claimed the policy was a “bad joke”, adding:

“On the day of the leader’s speech we announce the state banning of journalists, Labour is ceasing to exist as a serious political party.’

As always, the Conservative Party was standing by, rubbing it’s hands with glee at the prospect of getting one over Labour with MP Phillip Davies, who sits on the Commons Culture Committee, which is currently investigating the phone hacking scandal that rocked the British press earlier in 2011, aired strong views on Lewis’ policy, claiming it was reminiscent of the policies a third-world dictatorship enforces.

“Once the Government starts involving itself in the regulation of the media, that is a very slippery slope, it is the kind of thing that happens in Third World dictatorships.”

Davies then went on to add that Britain needs a free press, one that is self-regulated.

‘We need a free Press and self-regulation – that is the cornerstone of a free society and democracy.”

It’s not often one finds himself echoing the comments of a Conservative MP, however in this instance, Philip Davies has hit the nail on the head. By maintaning a free press, free of state interference and regulation, we help maintain our democracy and rights as citizens.

It is absolutely ridiculous for a democratically elected Member of Parliament to suggest introducing such a policy, and as an aspiring journalist, I wouldn’t like the idea of having my name on a register, or my career being at the mercy of the politicians.

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