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New report urges U.K. government to uphold high standards of press freedom

Global press organisation releases report from January mission; British government “must take steps to ensure it upholds the high standards of press freedom expected from a leading democracy.”

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) today [17 March 2014] releases the results from a fact-finding delegation of international editors sent to the United Kingdom between 15 and 16 January 2014.

“The lack of any real guarantees enshrining press freedom continues to expose journalism in the United Kingdom to great uncertainty, as there is nothing benign in a system that invites even the possibility of tighter restrictions on freedom of expression,” said WAN-IFRA CEO, Vincent Peyrègne.

“If the UK government feels it is acceptable, in the name of national security, to dictate what is in the public interest, and given the UK's continued influence over developing nations where media are essential for the spread of democratic values, the future of a free, independent press that can hold power to account is under threat worldwide.”

The WAN-IFRA delegation met government representatives, industry professionals, academics, lawyers and civil society organisations and heard a range of opinions regarding proposed changes to the system of self- regulation and the acrimonious process surrounding the drawing up of the Royal Charter.

The report reiterates serious industry concerns regarding the reforms, while revealing cautious optimism from those who believe current proposals to be an opportunity to restore public trust following Lord Justice Leveson's Inquiry into press standards.

The report also details UK government interference in the editorial independence of the Guardian newspaper, calling for stronger support for public interest journalism. The intense pressure applied by UK authorities following publication of digital surveillance stories based on leaked information from NSA whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, provoked a high level of international solidarity with the Guardian's position from within the WAN-IFRA membership.

The report findings also call for:

  • The British government to reiterate clearly to the international community that it continues to support a free and independent press.
  • Foreign governments not to transpose like-for-like the British model of regulation, calling for internationally recognised standards of freedom of expression to be applied to specific national contexts.
  • Any regulatory system of the press to have the support of the industry, and for reform discussions to be transparent and open to public consultation.
  • Calls for the highest standards of professionalism and ethical practice at every level of the media industry.

The full report can be downloaded at http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/101035/

WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore and India, is the global organisation of the world's newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

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