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Editors hit out at ‘inadequate’ laws governing political material

Editors have called for laws governing transparency in printed election material must be extended to non-campaign material.

The Society of Editors has warned existing laws that require political parties to make clear who is paying for and promoting printed election material are “inadequate and do not stop the public from being misled”.

The criticism has come in response to the Cabinet Office’s consultation on transparency in digital campaigning.

Earlier this year the Electoral Commission called for “real change” on misleading party political leaflets which resemble local newspapers, saying the practice was among the major concerns of the public in its report into campaigning ahead of last year’s general election.

A controversial Liberal Democrat publication published before the 2019 election

A controversial Liberal Democrat publication published before the 2019 election

In its response to the consultation, the SoE said the volume of every day political material marketed as ‘news’ and communicated to the public inside and outside of election time “diminished the established media’s ability to be heard”.

SoE executive director Ian Murray said: “In order to support the content published by trusted, verifiable news platforms, the Society strongly supports the long overdue extension of the imprints regime to digital election material.

“We also feel strongly that existing requirements for imprints on printed material require strengthening to ensure that the public are not being misled.

“It is essential that due prominence is given to imprints – regardless of the medium – to ensure that the public can quickly ascertain the origins and affiliation of everyday materials they are now presented with.”