The appointment of Mr Steve Coogan as a patron of Index on Censorship seems to me to be an odd one.
He is a vocal supporter of Hacked Off as well as one of its key financial supporters.
But Index and Hacked Off have contrasting views on the issue of press regulation.
There is a lot of concern at the apparent tension in this. Is this concern warranted?
So I asked questions of both Hacked Off and Index.
Below are their responses.
[Add: statement from Mr Coogan has been added at foot of this post.]
From Hacked Off:
“We understand Steve Coogan agreed to be patron of Index on Censorship after an approach from the organisation, having debated the merits of Leveson on a platform at a legal conference on 20th May.
“He did not consult Hacked Off before agreeing their request and nor would we expect him to.
“We strongly support his decision to be a patron of Index because, on matters other than Leveson, Index does excellent work which we support. For example, leading members and supporters of Hacked Off are involved in the Libel Reform Campaign with Index. Several other Index patrons are supporters of Leveson.”
In response to my questions:
1. A list of all times Mr Coogan has spoken on behalf of Hacked Off.
2. What he has said on those occasions.
3. A list of any public statements Hacked Off has made about Index (and its opposition to press regulation).
“We don’t keep these records – although you can search for published examples online.”
4. The extent of Mr Coogan’s financial support for Hacked Off (including but not limited to http://hackinginquiry.org/mediareleases/steve-coogans-rash-cash-pledge/)
“Steve Coogan matched cash donations from the public during a fundraising campaign last year, accompanied by a subsequent plea from Alan Partridge not to be duped by this request for a matching cash pledge.”
[Added when I asked for more detail]“We think the public generously contributed about £20,000 and Steve has generously matched that. The full sum is not yet totalled but will be reported in due course.”
5. The other ways Mr Coogan has supported Hacked Off.
“Steve Coogan’s support included appearances on platforms with Hacked Off, written press articles and a reception at the Labour Party Conference last year. He set out much of this in an interview for Total Politics on 26th March.
“He also provides support and encouragement to many of the victims of press abuse who are not otherwise in the public eye. As well as writing, broadcasting and acting, his time has been taken up on the Philomena campaign and on a campaign to help prevent FGM. We are very grateful for his time and energy.”
In response to my questions:
1. Why has Mr Coogan appointed as a patron?
“Index on Censorship is actively seeking new patrons from a variety of artistic spheres, known both in the UK and abroad. We are also looking for new patrons outside of the UK.
“Steve Coogan is a high profile writer and comedian who has spoken out openly on free expression and we believe he will be a strong supporter of work defending artistic freedom globally.”
2. When was the last patron appointed before Mr Coogan?
“I [Jodie Ginsberg, the CEO] don’t have a record on this but one has not been appointed for several years as far as I’m aware.”
3. Is there any formal procedure for appointing a patron?
4. Who approached whom about Mr Coogan being a patron?
5. When was this approach?
“I first spoke to Mr Coogan in early May and approached him formally this week.”
6. Who made the decision to appoint Mr Coogan as patron?
“The management team in discussion with the chair and trustees.”
7. Who was consulted re this decision?
“Staff and trustees.”
8. Who approved this decision?
“The chair and CEO”
9. Did anyone oppose this decision?
10. What account was made of Mr Coogan’s position as a spokesperson and key funder of Hacked Off?
“We recognised that Mr Coogan had taken an opposing position to us on the Royal Charter, as had other patrons.”
11. Has Mr Coogan made a donation to Index? Will he? Details please.
“Mr Coogan has made no donation to Index. I have no idea if he will make a donation.”
12. Is there any donation to Index connected with Mr Coogan’s appointment?
13. When did the appointment take effect?
14. Is there any limit to the support a person could give to the regulation of the press in any country before they became ineligible to be a patron of Index? If so, what is that limit?
“Yes – we would not appoint anyone as patron who did not agree with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
ADDED – From Steve Coogan:
This statement was emailed to me.
“It’s rather superficial to see any conflict at all between supporting freedom of expression and supporting the Leveson Report because the Leveson Report was about providing remedy for victims of press abuse and inaccuracies as well of course as securing plurality of the media which is so important in a democratic society.
“As I say in the pub most of the time, the Leveson Report and Royal Charter actually reinforce journalistic free expression by providing full costs protection for members of a recognised independent self-regulator.
“This is probably why so many writers and Human Rights campaigners support Hacked Off’s position.
“And it’s why leading Hacked Off supporters are so active on free expression issues like supporting the Guardian over the NSA, unlike the Mail, Telegraph and Murdoch papers and unlike some right-wing libertarian poseurs.”