Published Monday, 18 March 2013
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Interview: Mark Durkan
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Prime Minister David Cameron said the reforms, set up in the wake of the Leveson inquiry, will defend the principles of the free press.
The new body will be created by Royal Charter, but the emergency debate surrounding the new system has revealed confusion over whether or not the press will be legally obliged to sign up.
Lord Justice Leveson had recommend that a new regulation body should be underpinned by legislation, but Mr Cameron previously warned that could risk "crossing the Rubicon" towards a press law.
On Monday, he said the Royal Charter was a way of establishing the recognition body "without the need to write down in legislation the title, the definition, the functions, the power, the rules or the composition of a new system of regulation".
But Mr Cameron acknowledged that legislation was necessary to establish a system of exemplary damages for newspapers which did not sign up to the regulator.
Jim McDowell, Northern Editor of the Sunday World, said there is no need for the new body, and described it as a "toothless tiger".
"It's like being in jail. We've the most restrictive press in any democracy on the western world or anywhere else," he commented.
"I agree there was a huge problem in phone hacking but that's criminal activity, let the police deal with that."
However media lawyer Paul Tweed said it appears the optional system will not act as a strong enough deterrent to prevent press from crossing lines it has already breached.
"I, as a practicing media lawyer, need to have a situation where a client comes into me and tells me: 'I have been given four hours notice that a newspaper is going to publish serious allegations about me, they are not true how can I stop them?'
"We contact the press - as happened in the case of Louis Walsh for instance - and we are invariably faced with a situation of publish and be damned.
"I cannot see anything that I have heard in the past 24 hours that is going to act as deterrent," he added.
The move has been backed by all three major parties, and Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Commons was "doing the right thing".
"I want to pay tribute to the victims who have had the courage to stand up and make their voices heard - the McCanns, the Dowlers, the Watsons and, yes, their representatives," he stated.
"Today is the day we stand up for them. Today is above all their day."