Support for Free the Press

The Free the Press campaign has support from high profile individuals, politicians and international press freedom organisations.

Bill Committee Written Evidence


The threat of costs consequences, even in a legal case where the publisher is successful, would have a highly undesirable impact on non-profit and civil society organisations that adhere to extremely high standards in their investigations into corruption and inequality, but do not have the resources to risk the uncertain prospect of litigation. These provisions fail the tests of necessity and proportionality.

Global Witness

We are protected when covering politicians’ comments in Parliament thanks to the guarantees of absolute privilege. But if clause 168 were enacted, politicians could not expect even those protected words to be reported so freely. Unwelcome fact or critical opinion about anyone alive could leave our reports of their speeches open to legal attack, seriously jeopardising the future of the industry.

Newspaper Conference Chairman Patrick Daly

We remain concerned about the prospect of this worrying cost-shifting provision under any guise. These measures threaten press freedom, and have no place in the Data Protection Bill.

Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director, Reporters Without Borders

[The Bill] looks like a licence to print money for media and reputation-management lawyers – as well as a legal snakebite that would paralyse investigative journalism. Over the past 18 months, the Guardian has challenged multinational companies, billionaires and oligarchs over their financial affairs. MPs and lords have come under the microscope too. Would we do it again if the data protection bill goes through as is? I doubt it. The financial risks would be too great. Those heart-in-mouth moments could become exercises in journalistic self-immolation.

Nick Hopkins, The Guardian

We believe that the enactment of clause 168(3) of the Bill would likely be extremely damaging both to the UK news industry, and to the ability of our fellow citizens to access national and local news and information. In short, we believe the enactment of clause 168(3) would be contrary to the public interest.

Tony Jaffa, Partner, Head of Editorial & Regulatory Media, Foot Anstey LLP

IPSO now undoubtedly provides the most effective and robust overview of the industry. Publishers should not be penalised for choosing to reject IMPRESS and instead being part of an effective regime of press regulation, or choosing to self-regulate.

Media Lawyers Association

Implementing Section 40 would have meant that Index, which refuses to sign up to a state-backed regulator – and many other small publishers – could have faced crippling court costs in any dispute, whether they won or lost a case. This would have threatened investigative journalists publishing important public interest stories as well as those who challenge the powerful or the wealthy. We have argued consistently that Section 40 is a direct threat to press freedom in the UK and must be scrapped.

Index on Censorship

“It is important to remember that there still remain threats to a free press in this country in particular the amendments posed to the Data Protection Bill by the House of Lords. The amendments pose extreme financial threats to newspapers and, if granted, would curb genuine investigative journalism by all sections of the media.

Ian Murray, Executive Director, Society of Editors

There are concerns that amendments to the data protection bill could end up as a Trojan horse for state-backed press regulation... A critical, investigative press exists independently. The freedom to do so needs to be protected because it is the lifeblood of democracy. When so many civil and democratic rights are in retreat, the calculus of liberty requires the safeguarding and promotion of a free, fair press.

The Guardian

We must make certain that in ensuring we respect an individual's right to privacy we do not trample all over our free expression rights.

Antonia Byatt, Director, English PEN

Cross-party support from MPs

“As the Secretary of State is well aware, both SNP Members and the Scottish Government are extremely concerned about clause 168, which concerns section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Clause 168 was inserted in the other place and impinges on areas wholly devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Brendan O'Hara MP

"We are already 40th in the accepted rankings relating to a free press. We are not even in the top 10, and we should be up there with Norway, which I think is No. 1. We should be very careful about taking these steps. How would Russia Today react if our press organisations were forced into bankruptcy or felt the chilling effect that Alastair Campbell warned against recently?

John Grogan MP

“This is an erosion of the press freedom. If you don’t have an independent judiciary and an elected parliament that can be held to account by a free and fair press then you do not have a democracy.

Sir Henry Bellingham MP

"I believe passionately in a free press. We want to have a free press that is able to hold politicians and others to account and we will certainly be looking to overturn this vote in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Theresa May MP

Press self-regulation has changed significantly in recent years with the establishment of IPSO, which follows many of the principles set out in the Leveson report. As so few publishers have joined a regulator recognised under the royal charter, commencement of section 40 would have a chilling effect on investigative journalism, which is so important to a well-functioning democracy.

Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James MP

"The whole point of the press is that it is not in any way part of the state. Quite understandably, no serious newspaper of the left or of the right has been willing to bend the knee to IMPRESS, and nor should it.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

"Politicians deciding how newspapers should behave is a direct threat to our democracy, of which a free national and local press is an essential component.

Colin Clarke MP

"I want a free press to hold us, businesses and powerful people — yes, like Mr Mosley — to account. If I were in the wrong, the press would have a right to dig out of me what I had done wrong, even though I might not want them to do so.

Richard Drax MP

Section 40 will have precisely the opposite effect to what probably anyone listening would hope it to have. It will be an extraordinarily damaging measure for the future of the freedom of the press in this country.

Peter Heaton-Jones MP
"All Section 40 is going to do is destroy the local press and take away a local voice for so many people around the country. That is why it is vital we get rid of Section 40 and ensure we give local newspapers the opportunity to dig out the facts that need to be revealed. Anyone who voted for Section 40 is voting to get rid of their local newspaper."Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson MP

Is my hon. Friend as concerned as I am that The Times journalist who uncovered the Rotherham child abuse scandal said that it would have been inconceivable - that is the word he used - for the newspaper to have run that story on its front page had Section 40 been in place?

Mike Wood MP