RELEASE DATE: 9 April 2014
The Chartered Institute of Journalists has called for an independent inquiry into allegations that advisors to the Culture Secretary tried to browbeat a Telegraph journalist investigating her expenses.
Marie Miller’s resignation this morning should not make the issue go away. It highlights the “utter hypocrisy” of politicians rejecting self-regulation of the press, while sitting in judgement on the expense claims of fellow MPs.
Institute President Paul Leighton said: “Throughout the arguments about Leveson’s proposals for a press regulated by statute, journalists were told that their fight to retain self-regulation of the media was akin to “wanting to mark their own homework” and the press should instead be regulated by law.
“Now we find Members of Parliament defending their own – in this case Culture Secretary Maria Miller – over their expense claims and watering down the findings of the independent body set up to oversee MPs expenses. Does she think that by resigning that she can wash her hands of the story?”
Earlier this year Kathryn Hudson, Parliament’s standards commissioner, said Culture Secretary Maria Miller should hand back £45,000 in over-claimed allowances for a house in south-west London. However MPs on the Commons standards committee overruled the commissioner and said Mrs Miller would have to repay just £5,800 and apologise for her “attitude” during the inquiry.
Leighton added: “It is a truly bad day for democracy when Special Advisers at Westminster apparently seek to suppress legitimate journalistic investigation by making not very subtle references to a Minister’s role in piloting controversial legislation about press regulation through the Commons.
“It is hard to believe that a Minister who had already endeavoured to undermine inquiries into her expense claims was not aware of what was being done on her behalf by her staff.
“This is a striking illustration of why neither politicians or Government should play any part in regulating the activities of the vast majority of responsible journalists. The Daily Telegraph asked fair and reasonable questions about the behaviour of a leading member of the Government and was met with obfuscation and what can only be interpreted as ‘veiled threats’.
“Only an independent inquiry will help allay public concern about this matter and ensure that this sort of behaviour does not become the norm.”
Notes for Editors:
Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.