Eastbourne MP speaks out against law which could threaten press freedom

Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Caroline Ansell has said she will not support invoking a law severely hampering the ability of newspapers to report wrongdoing.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 5:07 pm
Updated Monday, 16th January 2017, 5:12 pm
Caroline Ansell speaking in Parliament SUS-170116-170048001

A consultation on implementing Article 40 of the 2013 Crime and Courts Act has now ended and the Government is expected to make a decision on whether it wants to go ahead with the clause.

Invoking it would force newspapers to pay all court costs, even if the story about someone doing wrong was found to be correct.

To avoid the threat, publications must sign up to a state-approved regulatory structure under a Royal Charter called Impress – giving politicians power over newspapers for the first time in hundreds of years.

“A press free of state interference is an absolute foundation of a democratic society and I’m convinced any move to implement Article 40 would be wrong and I will not support it,” said Mrs Ansell.

She continued, “Many scandals in this country, from MPs’ expenses to the Rotherham child abuse, might not have come to light if this clause was in force and that is unacceptable in a free society.

“I fully agree that having such a law could silence an investigation in the public interest that is completely accurate because newspapers, who have not signed up to Impress, might have to pay vast costs if the person written about went to court.

“There have been valid concerns about the conduct of some newspapers in the past, but it must be remembered it was The Guardian which uncovered the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World, not Parliament or any regulatory body.

“I believe this law has been designed to thwart the excesses of tabloid journalism following the Leveson Inquiry, but all local and regional newspapers, plus the majority of national ones, took no part in phone hacking.

“My view is newspapers should be free to report without facing excessive penalties that could force them to close and without state control, however light a touch.”