Blair's thoughts on media relations
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair has told an inquiry into press ethics that he found it difficult to be "objective" about the issue of media relations.
Mr Blair outlined his thoughts as he began giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in London.
He had made a written witness statement to the inquiry and was questioned by a barrister.
Mr Blair said in his statement: "I find this issue extraordinarily difficult to be objective about."
He said it was "unhealthy" that certain parts of the media used newspapers as "instruments of political power".
Mr Blair said: "I'm just being open about that and open about the fact that, frankly, I decided as a political leader that I was going to manage that and not confront it."
In his statement to the inquiry, he said: "Politicians will often interact with them closely. Disentangling what is inevitable from what is wrong is a profound challenge."
He went on: "My argument would be that the unhealthy nature of this relationship is not the product of an individual but of a culture.
"It is the draining of the poison of that culture that is the real challenge, a challenge deepened by the arrival of the social media and one not at all confined to the UK."
Earlier, Mr Blair had entered the Royal Courts of Justice - a good hour-and-a-half before the scheduled kick off - through a side door of the London court. But outside the main entrance, there were two dozen or so protesters waving banners reading "Troops home", "Bliar" and "Afghanistan out".