Local newspaper editors from across the country unite to stop plot to muzzle the Press

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Local newspaper editors from across the country have united to urge MPs not to join a Labour-backed plot to muzzle the Press.

Former party leader Ed Miliband and deputy leader Tom Watson are among opposition MPs seeking to hijack data protection legislation to tighten media regulation.

MPs will vote tomorrow on proposed amendments to the Data Protection Bill that would force publishers refusing to join a state-recognised Press regulator to pay the costs of claimants who bring court proceedings, even if their claims are defeated. They would also lead to yet another inquiry into the media – known as ‘Leveson 2’ – just six years after the Leveson Inquiry.

Former party leader Ed Miliband and deputy leader Tom Watson (pictured) are among opposition MPs seeking to hijack data protection legislation to tighten media regulation

Former party leader Ed Miliband and deputy leader Tom Watson (pictured) are among opposition MPs seeking to hijack data protection legislation to tighten media regulation

Former party leader Ed Miliband and deputy leader Tom Watson (pictured) are among opposition MPs seeking to hijack data protection legislation to tighten media regulation

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

Alan Edmunds, editorial director of Trinity Mirror Regionals, the country’s largest publisher of regional and local papers, said: ‘We do not want our journalists facing the spectre of Leveson 2 when attempting to report on the activities of public figures, legitimately and in the public interest.

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

Maidenhead Advertiser editor Martin Trepte added: ‘The amendments represent an attack on Press freedom which is completely unacceptable in our society.

‘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.’

Mr Miliband has tabled an amendment to the Data Protection Bill that would establish a new inquiry into all media organisations. Mr Watson’s amendment would require publishers to pay all claimants’ costs of legal actions brought against them as well as their own – win or lose – unless they sign up to the state-approved regulator Impress.

None of the 68 respondents in a survey of local newspaper editors thought another ‘Leveson-style’ inquiry should go ahead.