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Coalition government promises major reforms for freedom of expression and information

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 21 May 2010 - The UK's new coalition government has published its "Programme for Government" plan, which includes commitments to a number of reforms that will impact on freedom of expression and freedom of information. ARTICLE 19 welcomes the plan and urges the government to live up to these commitments.

The Programme for Government seeks to reverse substantial erosion of civil liberties in the UK and roll back state intrusion. It includes a focus on "Freedom Fairness Responsibility" and covers issues from banking to universities. There are a number of commitments on human rights, including on freedom of expression and freedom of information.

In terms of domestic policy, the new coalition has committed to reform libel laws. It has pledged to extend freedom of information, in relation to national and local public spending, and crime statistics, including hate crime. It has also pledged to enable the public to secure parliamentary debates and bills through large petitions.

In addition, the coalition has pledged to maintain the BBC's political independence, protect media diversity, and provide more support for whistleblowers.

Internationally, the coalition has pledged to stand firm on human rights, tackle corruption, and strengthen democratic values in all foreign policy. It has also pledged to review national security legislation.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes many of these proposals and will support and monitor their implementation. ARTICLE 19 is also calling on the coalition government to ensure that the commission established to "investigate the creation of a British bill of rights that incorporates and builds on our obligations under the European Convention" is not being used to undermine the Human Rights Act principles, and to limit the UK's international and European human rights obligations, but that, on the contrary, it re-enforces the UK's human rights commitments and responsibilities.

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