Leveson Inquiry Hijacked by Celebrities?

The father of a young man killed in the 7/7 bombings, who is thought to have had his phone hacked by News of the World Private Investigator Glen Mulcaire, has said that he will not appear at the Leveson inquiry into the press as he feels it has been hijacked by celebrities. 

Graham Foulkes, whose son David was killed in the Edgeware Road bombings said: “My objection to the inquiry is that I believe it’s been hijacked by so-called celebrities and they’re using it for their own purposes.

“I am worried that as a result of this inquiry and any knee-jerk reaction the government will impose overly restrictive codes of practice on solid, important journalism.

“We’ve seem many examples were journalists have brought terrorists, murderers and criminals to justice where the police have failed. “And that must not be allowed to be restricted in any way.

“I think the inquiry is a good thing for those ordinary members of the public whose lives have been touched by tragedy and intruded upon in a such a dreadful way by one organisation.

“But what does concern me is that celebrities choose to employ people like Max Clifford, who’s a multimillionaire out of celebrity and the media.

“And just because the media is under the spotlight at the moment, one or two so-called celebrities seem to me to have jumped on the bandwagon and they’ve hijacked the inquiry for their own purposes.

He went onto say: “I’m not quite sure what Hugh Grant is moaning about.”

Comedian Steve Coogan responded by saying: “The fact is that the Leveson inquiry has acted in the same way as genuine public interest journalism. It has shone a light on something which has hitherto gone unreported.”

The reaction to Mr Foulkes’ decision has been mixed, with some saying that celebrities haven’t hijacked the inquiry and that if you saw the inquiry in full you could see this. That the Dowler’s and McCann’s testimony has been the most hard hitting of the inquiry so far.

But before judging Mr Foulkes decision to not appear at the Leveson inquiry, he must be applauded for his pragmatism. Anyone else who has had their privacy WRONGLY breached would have every right to call for draconian press regulation.

But Mr Foulkes makes a great point in the need for important investigative journalism, which is a key cornerstone to our democracy. There is only so much new media can do to uncover wrongdoing and the blogger sphere hasn’t found a way of financing itself so that it can go out and do first hand investigations.

The second great point is that people like Hugh Grant who complain about media intrusion, yet when they want to promote themselves they are happy for the media to “intrude”. If as High Grant says he doesn’t need the press, then why appear at red carpets? To meet and greet fans? How many is that? 30/40? Why does he stop to talk to members of the press? Why hold press junkets for his movies?

The fact is there are several proper celebrities, musicians and actors who shun the media limelight, yet are able to forge successful careers for themselves.

But the biggest question has to be why Sienna Miller was invited to the Leveson inquiry? Did she not accept a £100,000 payout from News of the World? Hush money if you will, for not pressing on with action against News of the World. If Ms Miller cared so much about press regulation why did she not press on with the case?

As much as Mr Foulkes has a point though, a lot of people would have been interested to hear his testimony as to that of the so-called celebrities and it is a shame that won’t happen.

As for the Leveson inquiry the underlying issue is this epidemic of crash journalism that involves scandal and sleaze that the public desires and the newspapers driven by the bottom line feed them.

All the while proper investigative journalism is on the wane and an knee-jerk reaction against good investigative journalism would not solve the problem.The line from The Jam comes to mind “what the public wants, the public gets.”

Press regulation needs strengthening, but it needs to be strengthened in the correct areas, if not then terminal damage could be done to our free press.

What do you think, is Mr Foulkes right to shun Leveson?

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