J.K. Rowling ... hacking victims feel they have been hung out to dry. Photo: AP
LONDON: Celebrities such as J.K. Rowling and Hugh Grant have accused the British government of letting down the victims of media intrusion and urged tough new measures to rein in Britain's press.
MPs are to vote on Monday on rival plans for tougher controls following the country's phone-hacking scandal.
I did not see how [Mr Cameron] could back away, with honour, from words so bold and unequivocal.J.K. Rowling
The Conservative-led government says it will propose a new press watchdog with the power to levy fines of up to £1 million ($1.5 million). But hacking victims say the regulator must be backed by a new law to give it real teeth – something Prime Minister David Cameron opposes.
Harry Potter author Rowling – who testified previously to a media ethics inquiry about the impact of intrusive media upon her family – said she and other victims felt they "have been hung out to dry" by the government.
Grant, who won damages for phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World tabloid, said hacking victims supported a rival plan by the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party for stronger media measures. The actor said MPs "promised victims to do right by them, and they have that chance on Monday".
Debate about how to control the media has raged in Britain since revelations in 2011 that tabloid journalists had eavesdropped on voicemails, bribed officials for information and hacked into computers in a relentless quest for scoops.
The scandal has brought the demise of one newspaper – the News of the World – along with dozens of arrests and resignations, scores of lawsuits against Murdoch's media empire and a public inquiry into media ethics.
That inquiry, led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson, last year recommended the creation of a strong press watchdog body dominated by non-journalists and backed by government regulation.
But negotiations between Mr Cameron's Conservatives and others over how to implement those recommendations have stalled amid an increasingly acrimonious debate. Politicians are divided about whether a new watchdog should be set up through legislation – as recommended by Leveson – or through a royal charter, an executive act that does not require a vote in parliament.
Rowling accuses the Prime Minister of letting down hacking victims by ignoring Lord Leveson's proposals.
"I believed David Cameron when he said that he would implement Leveson's recommendations 'unless they were bonkers'," she said. "I did not see how he could back away, with honour, from words so bold and unequivocal.
"Well, he has backed away, and I am one among many who feel they have been hung out to dry."