AddThis SmartLayers

PM’s local paper dedicates front page to fight for press freedom

Theresa May’s local newspaper has dedicated its front page this week to the fight for regional press freedom as the government prepares to end its consultation into Section 40.

The Maidenhead Advertiser urged its readers not to “let politicians kill off your local papers” on page one of yesterday’s edition, prior to the deadline for responses on Tuesday.

The proposed legislation could see publishers forced to pay both sides’ costs in a libel action even if they win.

The independently-owned Advertiser has previously warned the Prime Minister, who represents Maidenhead in Parliament, that the legislation would be the “final nail” in the coffin for the regional press.


Explaining why he dedicated this week’s front page to the campaign, editor Martin Trepte told HTFP: “From our point of view, as an independent local publisher, we feel it is a real threat to us. We’re not part part of any big group.

“It’s so important to us that, with the deadline only five days away, we wanted to highlight that.”

In an editorial carried on page three, Martin wrote: “Only in the last week the Advertiser received a taste of what life would be like under Section 40. A convicted sex offender threatened us through his lawyers with a libel action for accurately reporting his court case. They made menacing reference to the risks to us if we refused to take the report down from our website.

“Our own lawyers said the complaint was ‘entirely unmeritorious’ so we refused and told them we would fight the case if they sued. But imagine if Section 40 is introduced. The floodgates will be open for complaints like this – from people who don’t want you to know what they have done – complaints which can be made at no risk and no cost to themselves.”

In October, the Press Recognition Panel, set up in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, approved Max Mosley-funded body Impress as an official press watchdog under the government’s Royal Charter, even though it has only a handful of members.

Martin added: “Last week was a personal eye-opener for another reason too. When I wrote about this issue on our website I found myself ‘trolled’ on social media by anti-press campaigners who back Impress and refuse to accept that the editor of a local independent paper could have genuine concerns about Section 40.

“This highlights the insidious nature of the danger to our freedom of speech. While they claim to champion freedom of speech, the only freedom the anti-press lobby really wants the rest of us to have is the freedom to agree with them.”


You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • January 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    S40 does need amending – it’s the thin end of the wedge, to make the innocent pay the costs of the non-existent “victim”. Imagine if it was extended to the criminal courts, so that even if you were acquitted you still had to pay the prosecution’s costs?
    Nevertheless, it’s not S40 that’s going to kill off the local press, it’s the local press (or rather their owners) who are doing that. In an era of wholesale destruction of proper newsgathering by the papers’ own managements in favour of clickbait & commercials, to protest about S40 as a threat to the press is hypocrisy of the highest order.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(7)
  • January 6, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Well done Trepte who also has an ailing paper as things get grimmer for all locals with slumping circulations, staffing and quality. We should all hope that Mrs May takes action against the pending restrictions.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(2)