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05 January 2017

NMA on Press Freedom: Five Days For Action

With five days left before the deadline for responses to the Government's consultation on press regulation, the News Media Association has today made an impassioned call for action urging people to stand up for the principles of free speech which underpin our democracy. 

The NMA said: "Newspapers come in all shapes and sizes with different audiences and editorial imperatives. That is what a free press underpins and it is fundamental to our democracy. Newspapers hold the powerful to account in the way no other media can and are held to account by their readers and the general law of the land. They are also almost all governed by IPSO, which is the effective independent regulator of newspapers and magazines in the UK.

"It is vital for all who hold the belief that newspapers should be free from discriminatory state controls and penalties to respond to the Government by 10 January as it consults on press regulation and the future of the Leveson Inquiry. The Government must abandon any plans to force newspapers into a new system of regulation by introducing a judicial penalty system which only applies to newspapers.

"Under this system anyone will be able to bring a legal claim against a newspaper’s journalism which the newspaper will have to finance even if the claim is false and without merit. It will be a bonanza for the unscrupulous, a field day for opportunistic lawyers, and will lead to timid journalism and the risk of some newspaper titles being forced to close.

"Newspapers are told that they can avoid this if they join Impress, a Max Mosley funded organisation which has been approved by the government funded Press Recognition Panel. But newspapers will not do so because they are determined to preserve the freedom of the press. But also, because they believe that Impress should never have been recognised. It is made up of people whose published opinions make clear that they have a visceral hatred for many of our newspapers, and that they see regulation as a way of controlling free speech.

"It is horrendous that their CEO and other Impress Board members openly campaign for advertisers to withdraw advertising from targeted newspapers to influence their editorial opinions. How can anyone seriously believe that such individuals are fit and proper people to act as independent and impartial regulators of newspapers?

"The Consultation also asks whether or not there should be a further Leveson type inquiry into the relationship between media and the police. There is now no case for such an inquiry. The world has moved on since the Leveson report six years ago, and a further inquiry would not serve the public interest.

"That is why it is time for us all to act now. It is the key campaign for the NMA and our members’ newspapers to win."