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British Government's Resolution to Phone Hacking: 'Seminars'

Lord Justice Leveson wants journalists' help in a year-long inquiry into press practices

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The British judge tasked with orchestrating an inquiry into the phone hacking scandal announced his plans on Thursday. Lord Justice Brian Leveson's two-pronged approach will include hearings with testimonies made under oath and a series of seminars on topics ranging from journalistic ethics to freedom of the press. With the power to force people to testify, Lord Leveson says that "no discourtesy is intended" for those who are summoned and hopes that "an appropriate cross section of the entire profession" will participate in discussions. It sounds very British.

David Cameron appointed Lord Justice Leveson to look into the fall-out of the phone hacking scandal earlier this month and provide recommendations for how to improve the state of the press in the U.K. As such, Lord Justice Leveson is primarily interested in learning about how journalists do their jobs by gathering evidence from all branches of the industry. This is what the seminars are for. Since those summoned would apparently be required by law to attend, these aren't exactly the sort of seminars you attended in college. But with broad topics like "the law, the ethics of journalism, the practice and pressures of investigative journalism … freedom and independence of the press" they sound conversational and might be open to the public. Lord Justice Leveson says he hopes to start the series in October.

Outside of the evidence-gathering, things could get serious. Lord Justice Leveson says that a second round of seminars will address "press relationships with the police, politicians and the political process" as well as "media policy regulation, the plurality of the media and cross media ownership." In order to capture this more specific picture of how the British press works, the committee will both summon individuals to provide evidence and welcomes "those who have a positive contribution" to come forward. In the most polite way, possible, Lord Justice Leveson expressed that participating in the inquiry would not be tantamount to tattling.

“It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a group of journalists then operating at the News of the World, but I would encourage all to take a wider picture of the public good and help me grapple with the width and depth of the problem,” said Lord Justice Leveson.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.