The Society has Editors has welcomed the defeat in the House of Commons of ‘perverse’ amendments to the Data Protection Bill.
The clauses, 168 and 169, would have seen publishers forced to pay both sides costs of legal actions brought against them in data protection cases regardless or not of whether they won an action in court.
The amendments, previously added to the Data Protection Bill in the House of Lords, were removed during the Committee stage of the Bill’s passing in the House of Commons yesterday.
Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “The Society of Editors welcomes the common-sense decision by the House of Commons to reject these amendments and stand up for press freedom.
“As recognised by the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary, the introduction of such perverse costs orders would have a chilling effect upon on local papers in particular and investigative journalism more widely. That said, the battle is not yet over and we hope that the House of Lords does not attempt to reinsert the clauses in the coming weeks.”
The Society has previously referred to the introduction of the clauses as ‘a dangerous perversion of British justice’.
In a written response to the Data Protection (Lords) Bill ahead of the House of Commons committee hearing yesterday, the Society urged MPs to reject the amendments and safeguard press freedom.
The Society said: “The Society is of the opinion that clauses 168 and 169 are a crude and misguided attempt to force publishers and individual titles to join a regulator under the state-sponsored Royal Charter system, something that the vast majority of publishers vehemently oppose on grounds of principle.
“The clauses are designed purely to penalise publishers who have quite legally chosen not to join a state-sponsored regulator and are an affront to British justice and fair play as well as the obvious threat to essential journalistic practices which underpin our democracy.
“Such actions would be seen by those in other countries as a green light to continue emasculating their own media. The UK would lose its preeminent position as a beacon of light for peoples around the world living under regimes who deny press freedoms through many means including spurious legal devices.”
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