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Britain's new press regulator labeled 'sham' by victims

Some newspapers, including the Guardian and the Financial Times, have declined to sign up

Published: Updated:

A new regulator for Britain's press started work Monday following a scandal over journalists hacking the phones of celebrities and crime victims, but was immediately dismissed as a "sham" by campaigners.

The Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) was set up after the 2012 judge-led Leveson inquiry into media standards following the hacking scandal at the now-closed News of the World tabloid, which was owned by Rupert Murdoch.

But it is funded by the newspaper industry and faces claims from campaign group Hacked Off, which is backed by actor Hugh Grant and the parents of the missing girl Madeleine McCann, that it will not be tough enough on Britain's sometimes unruly press.

Some newspapers, including the Guardian and the Financial Times, have declined to sign up, saying they will manage their own regulatory systems for now.

Hacked Off's executive director Joan Smith described IPSO as "sub-standard".

"Neither we, nor victims of press abuse, nor the wider public will accept a sham regulator that fails to meet the Leveson criteria of independence and effectiveness and which refuses to be subject to the audit that Lord Justice Leveson said was vital to prevent a repeat of the disastrous failures of the past," she said.

Hacked Off was due to hold a protest outside IPSO's offices -- in the same building as its discredited predecessor, the Press Complaints Commission -- on Monday.

But retired senior judge Alan Moses, who is heading the body, insisted he was committed to ensuring its independence.

He said he had had extensive contact with Hacked Off and had "only lost my temper twice" but understood their "frustration".

"I want to show that they're wrong," he told BBC radio. "The mere fact that you're the source of money doesn't mean to say you're in control."

IPSO says it will be able to force newspapers to print a correction in the event of a complaint against them being upheld.

In the case of "systematic" or "grievous" breaches of the guidelines, it can impose fines of up to £1 million (1.2 million euros, $1.6 million) and kick publications out of IPSO if they do not pay up.