Currently under threat

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A healthy liberal democracy is supported by several pillars; a freely elected parliament with universal suffrage, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech and a fearless but responsible press prepared to forage and challenge wherever it deems necessary. Governments monkey with these essential underpinnings at their peril.

As you will be aware, the last of these crucial supports is currently under threat from Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which was hurriedly cobbled together after the Leveson enquiry.

In a nutshell this enables anyone with a grievance, whether justified or not, to sue a newspaper at no financial risk to themselves. Win or lose the newspaper pays the costs.

Clearly this could deter any journal without deep pockets from taking a justified stance on a contentious issue for fear of financial ruin.

For the newspaper the only way out of this fix is to agree to be bullied into accepting government-approved regulation.

In effect, this constitutes arms length censorship by financial means.

Quite understandably those celebrities and others who resent their activities being exposed to daylight will use any means at their disposal to hobble an intrusive press.

This may not necessarily be in the public interest.

Our daily newspapers are already under competitive financial pressure from social media channels, the content of which is largely unregulated.

Many of these present myth, half truths and lies as though they were fact and it is often hard to tell the difference.

On the other hand the vast bulk of what we read in our newspapers is reliable and therein lies their value.

If anyone requires further evidence of why government interference in the free workings of the press is undesirable they need look no further than certain large countries of the Middle and Far East.

Those who believe in truth, freedom and liberty can write to their MP.

Gary Crosby

by email