To Theresa May United Kingdom Prime Minister
CC Karen Bradley Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
12 January 2017
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our deep concern regarding the possible activation of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, presently under consultation, and the prospect of a second phase of the Leveson Inquiry.
When learning of the current proposals, our international membership reacted with utter dismay. The idea that a newspaper that has elected not to join the state-approved press regulator, and that the courts recognise as having been wrongly accused, can nevertheless be forced to pay all the costs, win or lose, is alarming. It has obvious implications regarding self-censorship and the sheer sustainability of a free press.
We firmly believe that such a rule would be in breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and of Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
During our unprecedented press freedom mission to your shores in 2014, we warned that such laws translate to an attempt to control public debate. We reiterate that warning: if passed, in a country once a bastion of free speech, these rules will set a dangerous precedent in other, less democratically established parts of the world. We fully expect that the new regime will lead to a multiplicity of risk-free, false claims that will have chilling consequences on the freedom of the press, as well as a debilitating effect on the financial independence of media companies.
We therefore appeal to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, and by taking note of the significant changes to the media landscape and newsroom practises since 2014, discontinue the Leveson Inquiry.
We look forward to your response and remain entirely at your disposal should you require further information.
World Editors Forum President