Global body begins press freedom mission to the UK

An unprecedented international mission to London will begin tomorrow to investigate the Government's actions relating to newspaper regulation and the handling of revelations of state surveillance.

Maria Miller: culture secretary will meet delegation from international press organisation
Maria Miller: culture secretary will meet delegation from international press organisation

Top-level meetings are being held with the secretary of state for culture Maria Miller MP; John Whittingdale MP, the chairman of the Culture Select Committee; Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger; freedom of expression and civil society groups, professional bodies, industry representatives and academics, to discuss worrying developments in the UK.

The press freedom delegation, organised by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has historically been formed for war-torn countries, or dictatorships, including Ethiopia, South Africa, Libya, Yemen, Guatemala and Azerbaijan.

This is the first mission to the UK and comes amid what is described as "deep international concern about press freedoms" in the country.

Vincent Peyrègne, WAN-IFRA’s chief executive, said: "The WAN-IFRA membership is deeply concerned by the British authorities' treatment of the profession of journalism and its attempts to control the public debate.

"The British Government’s actions have far-reaching consequences across the globe – particularly within the Commonwealth – and any threats to the independence of journalism in Britain could be used by repressive regimes worldwide to justify their own controls over the press.

"We will endeavour to investigate all elements that threaten the United Kingdom's position as a bastion for free and independent media, with the same rigour as we have approached other international press freedom hotspots in nearly 70 years of defending freedom of expression worldwide."

The delegation will meet with as many different organisations as possible in order to publish a report in February outlining its conclusions, that will be disseminated to other parts of the world.

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