Battle for press freedom

Battle for press freedom

Battle for press freedom

Dear Reader, Tomorrow MPs will vote on proposed amendments to the Data Protection Bill that will, if successful, force newspapers like The Yorkshire Post to accept the Orwellian fate of State-sponsored regulation, or face Damoclean legal costs which would deter and distract regional newspaper editors, inhibiting our ability to undertake rigorous public interest journalism on your behalf, for fear of retaliative financial attacks.

In addition, the Section 40 costs sanctions pose a grave threat to the viability of local journalism. The Data Protection Bill is also being used, through an amendment tabled by Ed Miliband MP, to attempt to establish another vast inquiry, inspired by the Leveson Inquiry, but much bigger, covering data protection issues in television, magazine and online sectors as well as newspapers.

"The first part of the Leveson Inquiry spawned the draconian Section 40 costs shifting provisions and a further inquiry would undoubtedly create yet more restrictions on free speech which we would all have to battle".

Mrs May also said making a newspaper pay costs when it is found not at fault would be "against natural justice".

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In an anonymous survey of local newspaper editors conducted by the News Media Association, 92% of respondents said they did not think another "Leveson-style" inquiry into the media should take place with the remaining 8% saying they were unsure.

I am writing to ask for your support as MPs prepare to vote on measures which could have a profoundly damaging impact on local and regional media, including the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News. This is simply too important.

Mr Watson wants to introduce draconian Section 40 costs sanctions into the data protection regime, requiring publishers to pay all the claimants' costs of legal actions brought against them as well as their own, win or lose.

Local newspaper editors warn today the "completely unacceptable" measures are an attack on Press freedom that would cause irreparable damage to the regional press.

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'Another huge inquiry would only embolden those who would rather keep their activities hidden from scrutiny'.

'As a point of principle, we stand united against these attacks on free speech and urge all MPs to do likewise by voting against all the amendments'.

The amendment put forward by Mr Miliband, the former Labour leader, would pave the way for a "second Leveson inquiry" encompassing print media and broadcasters, six years after the original report into the hacking scandal set out a new regulatory structure for newspapers.

"The last thing we need now, as we are adapting our business model to the digital age, is the distraction of another expensive and time consuming statutory inquiry which would most likely result in yet more bad law such as Section 40".

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It will cost claimants a maximum of £100, offering an alternative to costly legal action over libel, privacy, harassment, and data protection claims.

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