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Regional editors to meet ministers over Leveson report

The local press will give its response to the Leveson Report today in a meeting with Culture Secretary Maria Miller to discuss the future regulation of the industry.

Regional newspapers were praised by a number of MPs in a Commons debate on Monday about Lord Justice Leveson’s report.

Culture Secretary Ms Miller pledged to speak to representatives of the local press about ensuring that regional newspapers survive and a meeting is due to take place this afternoon with the Newspaper Society and other industry representatives.

In his report, Lord Justice Leveson exempted the local press from criticisms about ethics in the industry and also called for urgent government action to help safeguard regional newspapers.

In Monday’s debate, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch said: “Thousands of excellent local and regional journalists will be affected by the changes to the regulatory structures for the press.

“When my right hon. friend meets editors later this week to discuss the changes, will she ensure that the local press has an equal voice in the design and operation of the new system?”

Ms Miller replied: “I will certainly listen very carefully to the concerns of the local press. As I said earlier, we all want to see a thriving press industry.

“We know the financial pressures and constraints that it is under in this country, whether at a national or local level.

“We need to ensure that coming out of this process, we have not only a regulatory system that encourages the right sort of journalism, support and reporting, but a thriving press.”

Colchester MP Bob Russell, himself a former newspaper journalist who started at the Essex County Standard, also defended the local press during the debate.

He said the issues about ethics related to national newspapers and said that “the local press, with its thousands of honest, hard-working journalists, should not be blamed for the sins of those working on the nationals”.

Meanwhile, Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, spoke to MPs ahead of the Commons debate urging them to adopt a proposed conscience clause for journalists, which was recommended in the Leveson report.

She said: “One of the key recommendations for the NUJ is Leveson’s support for a conscience clause for journalists – it’s an important victory for the NUJ after years of campaigning and, if implemented, will be a major step forward for ethical journalism.

“If journalists are to be able to refuse assignments they feel breach their code of conduct, it is vital that they have contractual protection against being dismissed.”

The NUJ is also calling on MPs to reject recommended changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the Data Protection Act which it claims will restrict reporters’ ability to carry out investigative work because police would have more powers to gain access to journalistic material.