Mr Hill talked about British media laws at the House of
THE media is "shackled" to such an
extent that the UK does not really have a free press, the editor of the
Daily Express said yesterday.
Peter Hill told a
committee of MPs examining standards in journalism that they should be
looking for ways of removing constraints on the media, not imposing new
Mr Hill also
apologised again for printing inaccurate stories suggesting Kate and
Gerry McCann were responsible for the death of their daughter Madeleine,
but said they had come from what he believed were credible sources in
the Portuguese police.
The idea that
newspapers could print whatever they liked about "people with impunity
was mistaken, he said.
"We have got the
laws of libel which are the most severe in the world," he told the House
of Commons select committee on culture, media and sport.
"We have got the law
of confidence, which is now being used extensively by celebrities; we
have got the law of privacy which is coming in; we have got European
law; we are pretty much up to our ears in laws."
Legal firms who went
round offering so-called "no win no fee" deals " technically known as
conditional fee arrangements (CFA) " on libel actions had created a
"ridiculous" situation and people came from all over the world to sue in
right to freedom of expression in the US ensured a genuinely free press
across the "Atlantic, he said.
"We do not have a
free press in this country by any means " we have a very, very shackled
press," he said.
"You should be
looking at means of removing those shackles, not imposing more." A
genuinely free press is essential to the proper functioning of a
democratic society, he said.
In March last year
the McCanns accepted a "550,000 payout from Express Newspapers over
false "allegations that they were responsible for the death of their
daughter, who disappeared while the family was on holiday in Portugal in
Mr Hill said he did
not consider resigning over the matter, saying there would be no editors
left if every one who faced a libel action resigned.
"I accept that we
did libel Mr and Mrs McCann because under the law we clearly did not
tell the truth about them," he said.
"Very few people
apologise for anything these days, but I have apologised for it and I
sincerely apologised and I apologise now."
Mr Hill stressed
that the stories were published in good faith as he believed them to
have come from a credible source.
"I was not making
these allegations. I repeated the allegations but I was not making
them," he said.
were made by the Portuguese police, who appeared to be very confident of
the rightness of what they were saying, but of course it turned out to
"This was a
reputable police force of a reputable country, a reputable, civilised
The media covering
the McCann case had a genuine wish to find out what had happened to her,
he said, and were not solely motivated by the desire to sell copies.
Last week the
committee heard from Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, who also voiced
serious concerns about the effect CFAs were having on journalism, and
the "insidious" "imposition of a privacy law in High Court rulings.