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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

"Inappropriate" to include bloggers in press regulation

The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that bloggers should not be part of a new regulatory system of the press. 

Speaking to a joint committee on privacy and injunctions he said blogs "perform a different role" from newspapers and bloggers "were often not paid". 

At the same time, he believed blogs were growing in importance to public and democratic debate. 

Citing Guido Fawkes as an example, he said that blogs with large audiences have "huge influence on political discourse" and could do "huge damage to individual reputations if and when they get things wrong". 

Despite their potential relevance to the future of privacy law and the use of injunctions, Hunt was concerned at "trying to solve too many problems at once".

He noted that bloggers are already "subject to the laws of the land" including libel, defamation and data protection breaches. But he acknowledged that the law was sometimes more difficult to enforce if blogs are based outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.

In 2009, Guido Fawkes told the Guardian that it was "a jurisdictional nightmare" to send him a writ as his blog was published by a Caribbean company, had a URL in Germany and was hosted in the United States. 

The joint committee felt that blogging should warrant more attention as some "big bloggers" were making "a lot of money" and that a new regulatory system should not leave an "open door" for irresponsible publishing.   

In a light-hearted moment, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke made it plain that he was "certainly not a blogger", quipping that a "quite disproportionate of nuts and extremists seem to be represented on every blog I've ever known". 

Jeremy Hunt interjected to say he had written a blog post last Friday.

To much amusement, Clarke quickly added: "...with the honorable exception of my friend, the Culture Secretary".

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