British press needs new regulator: Leveson report

International

ALAN COWELL & SARAH LYALL

The leader of a major inquiry into the standards of British newspapers triggered by the phone hacking scandal offered an excoriating critique of the press as a whole on Thursday, saying it displayed "significant and reckless disregard for accuracy," and urged the press to form an independent regulator to be underpinned by law.

The report singled out Rupert Murdoch's defunct tabloid The News of the World for sharp criticism.

"Too many stories in too many newspapers were the subject of complaints from too many people with too little in the way of titles taking responsibility, or considering the consequences for the individuals involved," the head of the inquiry, Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson, said in a 46-page summary of the findings in his long-awaited, 1,987-page report published in four volumes.

"The ball moves back into the politicians' court," Sir Brian said. "They must now decide who guards the guardians."

Murdoch closed the 168-year-old News of the World in July 2011 as the phone hacking scandal blossomed into broad public revulsion with reports that the newspaper had ordered the interception of voice mail messages left on the cellphone of Milly Dowler, a British schoolgirl who was abducted in 2002 and later found murdered.

Sir Brian said there had been a "failure of management and compliance" at The News of the World, accusing it of a "general lack of respect for individual privacy and dignity."

"It was said The News of the World had lost its way in relation to phone hacking," the summary said. "Its casual attitude to privacy and the lip service it paid to consent demonstrated a far more general loss of direction."

Speaking after the report was published, Sir Brian said while UK press held a "privileged and powerful place in our society," its "responsibilities have simply been ignored."

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