‘Conscience clause’ could restore faith in the press

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A “CONSCIENCE clause” should be written into journalists’ contracts of employment, a former tabloid newspaper editor told an inquiry into press ethics 

Journalists could invoke the clause if asked to do something in breach of an industry “code of practice”, Roy Greenslade – a professor of journalism at City University London and ex-editor of the Daily Mirror – told the Leveson Inquiry.

Prof Greenslade told inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson that journalists should know “what they should not be doing”.

He was discussing the merits of codes of practice as the inquiry analysed ideas for future regulation of the press at a hearing in London.

“If journalists are to have codes of practice written into their contracts of employment – as is already the case at several companies – then it should be the case that there needs to be a formal clause that journalists can invoke if they believe they are being asked to do something that may breach the code and thereby threaten their employment,” he said, in a written witness statement.

“Seen from the opposite perspective, their employment must not be threatened should they invoke the clause.”

And he told the inquiry: “They should know … what they should not be doing and this should be codified.”

Prof Greenslade said press regulation needed “state involvement” if public confidence in British journalism was to be restored.

“National newspapers compete aggressively for audiences, and have a track record of ethical malpractice,” He added. “Self-regulation could, and should, have worked. It did not.”