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Comment: why you should oppose attempts to stifle press freedom at time when it has never been more important

You may have heard a bit of noise surrounding the regulation of the press. A media commentator may have popped up on your radio or TV to talk about Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act or the resumption of the costly Leveson Inquiry.

Your daily tabloid may have interrupted the latest news on the Kardashians to bring you important news about a threat to press freedom.

We would forgive you if you retuned or turned the page. Because you are not really that bothered about the regulation of the press.

You local newspaper is under threat by proposed legislation
You local newspaper is under threat by proposed legislation

Compared to the NHS, the economy, Brexit, rail fares, housing, frankly it pales. So we (the press) are left to engage in a quiet battle in the corner of public discourse with a odd collection of individuals who basically don’t like us – quite a lot actually.

We say “us” but the likes of Max Mosley, who funds the state-recognised regulator Impress, Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, probably have nothing against the Messenger, however, they loathe the Daily Mail and anything to do with Rupert Murdoch.

Yet section 40 will hit ALL papers with costs in civil actions no matter what the outcome, unless they sign up to Impress. Because local publishers have much shallower pockets they face closure under this law. We could avoid the threat by being nice to everyone, but even that’s no guarantee of survival.

Papers refuse to sign up to a state-appointed regulator
Papers refuse to sign up to a state-appointed regulator

The reason for the “noise” is because a government consultation into this proposed law and the next stage of Leveson ends on Tuesday.

Believe us, it will affect who brings you the news and what stories are published.
In a world where the likes of Google and Facebook have massive unfettered power over the information we consume but with little appetite to exert any editorial control, a vibrant and free press has never been more vital.

Our industry isn’t perfect, but stifling papers or even shutting them down to satisfy personal grudges against media moguls and editors would be a huge price to pay in a supposedly free and democratic country.

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