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Political parties urged to seek press regulation for fake local papers

Lexi KirkconnellPress watchdog Impress has urged political parties to seek “rigorous and independent press regulation” for fake local newspapers they publish.

The standards body, which already regulates a number of national and local titles, has written to eight different political parties to implore them to take action on the issue.

The plea comes amid controversy over recent examples of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats aping regional press titles, which have been highlighted by HTFP.

In addition to the Tories and Lib Dems, the letter from Impress chief executive Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana has also been sent to Labour, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party.

Lexie, pictured, wrote in the letter: “For democracy to flourish, it is essential that we have a thriving, healthy and trusted news media ecosystem.

“To achieve this, collaboration and transparency is needed between news organisations, the public and politicians.

“It is entirely disheartening then to see the latter groups continuing to engage in the practice of distributing campaigning materials under the guise of local newspapers, misleading voters into believing what they are reading is the work of local journalists from independent publications.

“Often, these are accompanied by either no clarification of their actual purpose or by only the smallest clarifying statements.

“We are therefore asking that all political parties, carefully review this practice among their candidates moving forward and the negative impact it will have on politics, journalism, and democracy.

“If you do insist on continuing to produce these materials, we implore you to seek out rigorous and independent press regulation for them to ensure they meet robust standards.”

The Conservatives recently came under fire from the regional press industry over dozens of examples of local press mimicry, which included Tory MPs using the names of real former newspapers such as the Lincoln Chronicle and High Peak Reporter.

HTFP also reported on Friday how the Oxford University Liberal Democrats claimed a party political pamphlet called the South Oxfordshire Observer has a “higher circulation” than the Oxford Mail.