MPs use vote to protect freedom of local media - The Evesham Observer

MPs use vote to protect freedom of local media

Evesham Editorial 11th May, 2018   0

A CONTROVERSIAL amendment which could have seen local newspapers pay both sides of a legal bill, no matter who won the case, was defeated in the House of Commons with the support of the Vale’s MPs.

Both Evesham MP Nigel Huddleston and Pershore’s MP Harriett Baldwin revealed their opposition to former Labour leader Ed Milliband proposal for a second Leveson inquiry into the press’s relationship with the police which was defeated by nine votes — 304 to 295 — after free speech campaigners and experts in media law warned of a chilling threat to press independence.

Following the vote, a further amendment from West Midlands MP Tom Watson was scrapped. In it, he called for newspapers such as the Observer to join a regulator set up by former F1 boss Max Moseley and financed by private donors or face the prospect of paying both sides of a legal bill if sued, no matter whether the newspaper won or how frivolous the claim was.

Speaking after the vote, Mr Huddleston said had the amendments been passed, it would have seriously undermined press freedoms in the UK and restricted the press from carrying out high quality investigative journalism.

“Implementing Section 40 would have undermined the financial viability of local publications who are already struggling financially,” he said.

“Hundreds of local titles have already gone under in recent years and Labour’s amendments would have accelerated this even further.

“The amendments would also have effectively required the Government to reopen a costly, disproportionate public inquiry which the Government’s recent consultation found there was no appetite among the public for and which would have ignored the substantial change the press has undergone since the Leveson Report.

Mrs Baldwin said: “I welcome the fact that the Government has passed this important legislation which protects our free press and headed off Labour attempts to put many small newspapers at risk of damagingly high legal costs.

“I have always been a strong supporter of our local media and the role they it plays in our society and welcome the fact this legislation passed without these amendments, removing the worrying threat for local newspapers.”


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