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The free press is under threat once again as MPs prepare to vote today

MPs are currently debating and will today vote on amendments to the Data Protection Bill that are designed to muzzle the free press. Around 90 per cent of publications have decided not to register with the state approved regulator, IMPRESS. There are many reasons for this, one being that IMPRESS is largely bankrolled (through two trusts) by free press hater Max Mosley. But the main reason is because the state should not have a say in regulating newspapers. 

As a result, 90 per cent of publications have decided to register with IPSO - a self-regulatory body that has the power to order retractions and impose fines. The fact that IPSO is not state approved is important to remember when considering the amendment from Deputy Labour Leader, Tom Watson.

From the Press Gazette:

"MPs will vote tomorrow [today] on an amendment to the Data Protection Bill tabled by former Labour leader Ed Miliband, which would establish a broad new statutory inquiry into data protection issues in the media after the Government scrapped the second part of the Leveson inquiry.

"They will also vote on a separate amendment by deputy Labour leader Tom Watson proposing Section 40-style costs sanctions which would require publishers to pay all the claimants’ costs of legal action brought against them, win or lose, unless they are signed up to a state-backed regulator."

Just to make this clear, if someone sues a newspaper for libel, the newspaper must pay the full costs irrespective of the verdict. If MPs vote in favour of Watson's amendment, it would be open season. if I didn't like a story about me in my local newspaper, I could bankrupt it. The story may not be libellous, but that doesn't matter. They would have to pay my costs - win or lose. 

As for Miliband's amendment, this is just another attempt to muzzle the free press. He may have personal axes to grind with certain publications, but that is not a reason to launch another inquiry.

UPDATE: 17:00. Leveson 2 was defeated by nine votes, and Watson didn't move his amendment. A victory for the free press. 

Watch Jacob Rees Mogg's speech from this afternoon. 


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