LONDON (AP) – Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday signed off on new press regulation rules developed in the wake of Britain’s phone hacking scandal, after a court rejected last-ditch attempts by the country’s publishers to block the measures.
But the approval of the new charter by the queen and all three of Britain’s major political parties does not resolve a bitter national debate about media regulation. Many journalists are deeply opposed to the plans, and the press will be free to sign up or stay outside of the new regulation framework.
The new charter is expected to create a body which would subject Britain’s newspapers and magazines to a government-backed watchdog intended to curb the abuses uncovered by the hacking scandal, which revealed that journalists at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World and other papers illegally listened in on the phone voicemails of public figures and crime victims.
Many in the media argue that the supposedly independent body could be abused by politicians to punish publications they don’t like. They also say that their alternative proposals were unfairly dismissed.
Journalists have been fighting a rear-guard action to avoid regulation, and on Wednesday publishers went to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal to block government action. Both courts rejected the publishers’ attempts to seek judicial review and an injunction.
The defeat is unlikely to be final. Several publications have already threatened to boycott the new body, and some talk of taking the fight to the European Court of Human Rights.
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