The British government is sending a “negative message” to the rest of the world in its treatment of the press, an international publishers’ delegation has said.
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) held a two-day mission to the UK last week in the wake of the row over press regulation.
It has now warned that the current plans for state-sponsored regulation under Royal Charter risks causing “serious repercussions worldwide,” with the fear that other government’s may copy Britain’s approach.
The delegation was also concerned that foreign governments might take a lead from the British approach to The Guardian newspaper’s reporting of National Security Agency leaks provided by former security contractor Edward Snowden, the press freedom group said.
During the visit, WAN-IFRA delegates met with repersentatives of the Newspaper Society as well as leading politicians.
WAN-IFRA chief executive officer Vincent Peyrègne said: “Our visit has been unanimously welcomed as a timely and much needed initiative at a moment of great uncertainty for the future of the British press.
“Our mission confirmed differences of opinion in terms of how the introduction of legislation governing the press will impact press freedom.
“It highlighted serious concerns regarding the independence from political involvement in that process, and how implementation of the legislation that underpins the Royal Charter could potentially be abused to restrict a free press both here in the UK and abroad.”
Added Vincent: “The mission highlighted WAN-IFRA’s concern that general confusion surrounding changes to the self-regulation system for the press in the United Kingdom, coupled with the government’s chilling intimidation of the Guardian, is sending a negative message to the international community.
“That foreign governments may cite the current British example when reforming their own regulatory processes, as well as the inspiration they may take in how to treat investigative journalism, remain of particular concern and risks causing serious repercussions worldwide.”
Previous WAN-IFRA press freedom missions have been to countries such as Ethiopia, South Africa, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Myanmar.
A full report detailing the mission’s findings, providing an outline of the major differences and concerns, is to be published next month.