Judith Townend

Leveson online: A publicly reported inquiry

The Leveson Inquiry has broken new ground for court and political reporting: for the first time a public inquiry held under the Inquiries Act 2005 has been played out live on the internet. Online media provided a chance for ordinary members of the public, non-profit groups and small media organisations to expand and question mainstream media narratives, as they watched, blogged and tweeted proceedings. This paper considers public access to the inquiry, arguing that digital communication has allowed for a newly liberated form of debate and enhanced the public's entitlement to report what they hear in court, in accordance with a longstanding legal tradition of open justice. Additionally, it has improved UK citizens' right to freedom of expression - which includes the right to receive as well as impart information and ideas. The public's increased access to inquiry resources and reporting tools does not necessarily indicate a greater role on the 'news stage', but it opens up the possibility for greater public influence on news discourse, and beyond that, political debate.

Keywords: Leveson Inquiry, open justice, freedom of expression, newsworthiness, news access, social media


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Note on the contributor

Judith Townend is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, City University London, where she is researching defamation, privacy and journalistic process. She co-ordinates the 'Open Justice in the Digital Era' project and recently edited a collection of working papers by leading academics and practitioners entitled Justice wide open. She contributes to a number of publications, including the Inforrm media law blog, Index on Censorship and Guardian.co.uk. She studied social anthropology at the University of Cambridge before pursuing a career in digital journalism and research.