Attempts by the British government to influence the media and "dictate what is in the public interest" have global ramifications for an independent press, and are already being used by repressive regimes to excuse their own practices, is the damning conclusion of a world press investigation today.
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has published the findings of its unprecedented fact-finding mission in the UK after a year in which the government attempted to force a new regulator upon the press, and stands accused of partaking in mass state surveillance.
The result of top-level meetings with a range of parties, including professional and civil bodies, academics, lawyers, the secretary of state for culture, Maria Miller, and editors including The Guardian's Alan Rusbridger, has found that the press industry in the home of Fleet Street is in a perilous state.
Vincent Peyrègne, chief executive of WAN-IFRA, said: "The lack of any real guarantees enshrining press freedom continues to expose journalism in the United Kingdom to great uncertainty, as there is nothing benign in a system that invites even the possibility of tighter restrictions on freedom of expression."
"If the UK government feels it is acceptable, in the name of national security, to dictate what is in the public interest, and given the UK's continued influence over developing nations where media are essential for the spread of democratic values, the future of a free, independent press that can hold power to account is under threat worldwide."
The group also highlighted growing evidence that Britain's approach is being used by repressive regimes around the world to excuse their own practices towards the press.
The WAN-IFRA delegation heard a range of opinions regarding proposed changes to the system of self-regulation and the acrimonious process surrounding the drawing up of the Royal Charter.
The report from the press freedom delegation sent to the UK in January, concluded: "The British government must take steps to ensure that it upholds the high standards of press freedom expected from a leading democracy with a long tradition of guarding these values.
"It should reiterate clearly to the international community that it continues to support a free and independent press and back these statements with discernable action at home to support rather than punish journalism."
The report added that the British government should "step back from any further involvement" in the regulation issue and that the UK press should be "fully supported in its efforts to create and implement a credible framework for self-regulation"
This article was first published on