London: Ethics and practices of the British press have come in for sharp criticism in the House of Lords where Indian-origin peer Lord Swraj Paul and several others pressed for a statutory media regulator.
Urging the government to endorse fully the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson, who has suggested statutory underpinning for a new media regulator, Paul said that self-regulation had failed in the media, banking and a lot of other services. "At the moment it is difficult to find an area where it has succeeded".
Participating in a marathon debate on the Leveson report yesterday, Paul recalled the case of an Indian-origin nurse Jacintha Saldanha who committed suicide after a supposed hoax call by two Australian presenters last month and said that she had become "an unwitting victim of the media".
This case must surely represent the pinnacle of the abuse of power by the media over the individual, he said, adding, "With power goes responsibility. Yet again the media has failed fully to accept that responsibility".
Asserting that it was now time for that power to be curbed, Paul urged the Government to endorse fully the recommendations of the Leveson report, especially when it was commissioned with all party support.
Freedom of the press is vital in maintaining democracy, and, fortunately, Britain has some of the best journalists in the world who have set the benchmarks for ethical reporting, he said. "In India we admired many British journalists like James Cameron and Mark Tully".
"But ordinary citizens who find themselves caught in the media spotlight, often at a time of extreme crisis or loss, should reasonably expect that their personal information is not illegally accessed and published. These victims of the press have no voice and no platform," said Paul, a leading NRI industrialist.
At the outset, Paul, who is also the Chancellor of two British Universities--Wolverhampton and Westminister, said that 2012 was surely an `Annus Horribilis` for standards in public life in Britain.