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Crackdown on newspapers could affect bloggers

Freedom of speech was deemed to be under threat following a deal ‘hashed together’ by the ‘three main political parties’ over pizza and Kit Kats.

The story made the front page in this morning’s Metro with the headline ‘Bloggers ‘caught in newspaper crackdown’’ and revealed that history had been made when an agreement was reached to set up a new watchdog. The decision means that there will be a ‘tighter apologies regime’ for the media, designed to stop papers splashing ‘an erroneous story’ and apologising in ‘a less prominent position’. (FinancialTimes.com)

In a cross-party meeting, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg spent more than five hours discussing a proposed deal to overhaul the way the press is regulated, starting at 9pm and reaching an agreement at 2:30am.

Campaigners opposed to the deal were shocked at the decision to set up a new watchdog to regulate all sites covering news-related material, which would have the power to impose punitive damages to publishers that don’t sign up to the new regulatory body and show a ‘reckless disregard’ for any complainant’s rights. Concerns were raised that it could affect freedom of the press and have an impact on independent bloggers, gagging them on subjects like local politics and corruption in sport.

Chief executive of Index On Censorship, Kirsty Hughes, said it was a ‘sad day’ and stressed that ‘bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place’.

However, press reform campaigners, which included the Hacked Off group, co-founded by Lib Dem MP Evan Harris, believed the regulator would be ‘genuinely independent’ and would help to protect the public from abuse. Director Brian Cathcart insisted the deal would not affect the freedom of the press.

Various celebrities gave their two-pennies’ worth, notably JK Rowling who tweeted her approval, writing: ‘Very happy with today’s news – clear win for Miliband-Clegg led coalition. Here’s to freedom of speech with accountability’. 

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