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Brown is "good friend to press freedom"

Senior media executives meeting in Bristol have praised Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s commitment to press freedom and freedom of information in a series of speeches.

In his keynote address opening the Society of Editors conference last night, Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre described Mr Brown as “a good friend of press freedom.”

It followed a series of meetings over the past year in which the Prime Minister acted on concerns raised by the industry, including scrapping plans to levy higher fees for FoI requests and banning reporters from inquests.

At a session on parliamentary and legal matters this afternoon, speakers agreed that there had been a change of climate in Whitehall towards freedom of information.

The outgoing information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said that the Freedom of Information Act had initially been a “fragile flower” and that Whitehall had “not been ready for it.”

But he added: “It is now well-established and part of the fabric of public life.”

Mr Thomas cited a speech by Mr Brown in which he himself said that while FoI was “inconvenient and at times embarrassing,” it was right “because government belongs to the people, not to the politicians.”

Daily Mail executive editor Robin Esser said the speech showed how the Prime Minister’s mind was working, but added: “He needs to be as good as his word.”