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'Robert Mugabe would be proud of David Cameron for undermining three centuries of press freedom'

By Tim Montgomerie
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That's not my view. It's not the view of some extreme socialist worker. On the back of Cameron's review into press freedom it's (1) the Daily Mail that today compares Mr Cameron to the murderous leader of Zimbabwe and (2) it's The Telegraph that warns the PM against returning Britain to 1695, the last time there were statutory controls on press freedom.

Paul Dacre throws the kitchen sink at the Tory leader for advocating greater regulation of the press:

"Top of the class for hypocrisy is Mr Cameron who, in a desperate and cynical bid to deflect attention from his own terrible lack of judgment in becoming so close to the Murdoch empire, delivered a body blow to Britain’s free Press by announcing that some kind of statutory control would now be necessary. Truly, it is a dark day for the Conservative Party when its leader, in a bid to save his own skin, advocates the muzzling of the free Press. Mr Mugabe would be proud of him."

Paul Goodman predicted this yesterday. Not the Mugabe comparison but that Cameron's review of press regulation would give Britain's newspapers "a powerful new cause for grievance." Cameron didn't have a good relationship with the right-wing press before Hackgate but the Fleet Street/ Downing Street relationship has just taken another turn downwards. The Guardian and Independent are blasting the PM for getting into bed with Murdoch and Coulson. The Mail and Telegraph are furious that Cameron is willing to compromise press freedom in response to the crisis at News international.

The leader-writers at The Telegraph are a little calmer than those at the Mail but they are equally worried at the implications for press freedom of the kind of statutory regulation that Cameron's review might deliver. They note that it was a newspaper - The Guardian - that exposed what went on at the News of the World. They argue that a statutory body would "almost certainly" have stopped it from publishing 2009's MPs' expenses revelations. [They don't say it but the MPs' expenses files got into the newspapers' hands via clandestine means.] The Telegraph concludes:

"Mr Cameron showed poor judgment in appointing Mr Coulson to a senior position. It would be disgraceful if he compounded that mistake by undermining three centuries of free speech."


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