Michael Gove has clashed with the man leading the inquiry into media ethics and warned him against new laws regulating the press.
In robust exchanges at the Leveson Inquiry, the Education Secretary raised concerns about any restraints on journalists' "precious liberty" of freedom of speech.
He cautioned against fresh legislation, suggesting there had been a tendency for a "crisis, scandal or horror" to spark an inquiry, which would come up with recommendations that were "applied in a way that the cure is worse than the disease".
But, in an apparent slap down, inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson told him: "Mr Gove, I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don't."
And he questioned Mr Gove's claim that "by definition" freedom of expression meant some people being offended, telling him some of the witnesses he has heard from, who include the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, "can be characterised as rather more than, 'Some people are going to be offended some of the time'?".
Mr Gove said he was "unashamedly on the side of those who say we should think very carefully before legislation and regulation", adding: "The cry, 'Something must be done' often leads to people doing something which isn't always wise."
He added: "The experience we have of regulation over the last three decades is that sometimes good intentions can result in curtailment of individual freedom and they can also result in an unrealistic expectation of how individuals behave."
Lord Justice Leveson said he was considering a system that would allow complaints to be resolved "cheaply" out of court for newspapers who were signed up to the scheme. The Tory minister said "at first blush" the suggestion seemed fair but "the devil is in the detail".
The former Times journalist launched an impassioned defence of the newspaper's proprietor Rupert Murdoch. Agreeing he had commented the media mogul was a "great man", he added Mr Murdoch was "one of the most significant figures of the last 50 years".
But he conceded the relationship between the press and politicians is not always in the public interest, with some journalists and MPs ending up "relying upon each other for confidences which are not shared with the public at an appropriate time".