Top panel prepare to answer: 800 years after the Magna Carta, do we have a free press?

Next week’s debate, 800 years after the Magna Carta, do we have a free press?, sold out a fortnight in advance, raising over £700 for the Journalists’ Charity. If you can’t join us in person at the Grange St Paul’s Hotel – a fitting setting given its proximity to Fleet Street with its journalistic and legal heritage – you can follow the event on the night on Twitter with @LondonPressClub #freepress2015.

The results of a specially commissioned YouGov poll on the subject will be revealed on the night. Steve Hewlett, presenter of Radio’s Media Show, will chair a top panel comprised of:

Sir Keir Starmer: Elected as Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras in May, Starmer was previously director of public prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). During his career as a barrister notable cases included representing former MI5 officer David Shayler, who had passed secret documents to the Mail on Sunday, and offering free legal advice to the McLibel Two, who had published a pamphlet criticising McDonald’s. As head of the CPS he attracted criticism from the press for cases including the prosecution of Paul Chambers for a joke made on Twitter and, most notably, for his role in prosecuting the Operation Elveden journalists, who have since seen charges dropped.

Trevor Kavanagh: Not a man to hold back – at a previous Press Club event he memorably said “The Sun is not one to say on the one hand this and the other hand that” – Kavanagh has been an outspoken critic of Operation Elveden, describing it as a witch hunt in 2012 and a fiasco earlier this year. The paper’s political editor for over two decades – with a highlight being the scoop on the Hutton Inquiry results – he is now associate editor.

Jodie Ginsberg: CEO of international campaigning organisation Index on Censorship, Ginsberg was previously London bureau chief for Reuters, having worked as a foreign correspondent and business journalist. In April after several writers pulled out of a PEN gala because of the decision to honour Charlie Hebdo, she described the notion that some forms of free expression are more worthy than others. “Free speech is being eroded on all sides, and all sides are responsible. If you genuinely believe in the value of free speech – that all ideas and opinions must be heard – then that necessarily extends to the offensive and the vile.”

Peter Kellner: President of YouGov since 2007 and its chairman before that, Peter was one of the main BBC commentators on May’s election night where one of the biggest stories was how wrong the pollsters had got it, until the very accurate exit poll. Previously he spent over three decades as a journalist and columnist for The Independent, Newsnight, the New Statesman and the Sunday Times. He will be able to shed some light on the YouGov poll carried out especially for the debate.

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