The President of the London Press Club, Lord Black, has appealed personally to all members to speak out against the implementation of Section 40 before the consultation period ends on 10 January.
Section 40 legislation could see media organisations forced to pay both sides’ costs in privacy and libel cases – even when an action is successfully defended.
In a personal message to London Press Club members, Lord Black said: “Our industry faces a clear and present danger. Press freedom and the commercial viability of our industry – and particularly of the local press – is under threat from proposals to force us to pay the costs of a libel or privacy action even if we win.
“The Government is consulting on this and it is vital there is a huge response from all those who believe in a free press. We have until 10 January to make our views known.
“I know you share this passion to maintain our freedoms – so please help. This danger is very real and a few minutes of your time in responding will make a real difference.”
The NMA deputy chief executive Lynne Anderson has said: “Our industry – and journalism itself – is under attack. Free speech campaigners across the UK, including students and young journalists worried about the threat to press freedom, are coming together under the banner of the Free the Press campaign.
“The campaign, backed by the NMA, aims to get Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 repealed and the Leveson Inquiry discontinued.”
A dedicated website freethepress.co.uk has been set up with a short description of the Section 40 proposal and a submission form to respond to the government consultation. You can also support the campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #FreethePress
Bob Satchwell, Executive Director of the Society of Editors, said: “It makes sense that the Secretary of State is consulting all parties on press regulation as it is today. The Leveson Inquiry took place more than four years ago and inquired into events that had happened a decade or more ago.
“The Independent Press Standards Organisation has been in operation for two years and has already strengthened regulation and changed the behaviour of the press dramatically.
“It covers the vast majority of newspapers and magazines who are signed up to its already toughened systems of governance. All of the significant publishers will not contemplate joining the imposed Royal Charter system which is a gateway to political interference.
“Over the past decade the economic and competitive background has changed dramatically. It would be dangerous to open up local and regional papers, particularly, to threats of legal action, the costs of which they would have to pay even if they won a case, and which could put them out of business.”
Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, launched the public consultation saying she is seeking views on costs orders contained in the Crime and Courts Act and whether there is sufficient public interest in holding the second part of the Leveson Inquiry.
Entitled, ‘Consultation on the Leveson Inquiry and its implementation’, the closing date is 10 January.
To respond directly to the DCMS consultation programme go to:
Write to: Press Policy, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 4th floor, 100 Parliament St, London SW1A 2BQ