Newspaper Week puts focus on press freedom

Press freedom is to be the theme of this year’s Local Newspaper Week, organised by the Newspaper Society.

World Press Freedom Day falls on 3 May, at the start of Local Newspaper Week, which runs from 3 to 9 May.

Regional newspaper editors are being urged by the NS to run features on press freedom and to highlight the crucial role the regional press plays in safeguarding free expression and promoting openness in the courts, local government and other public bodies.

The NS is also conducting a survey of editors as part of Local Newspaper Week to identify press freedom problems faced by regional journalists as well as any successes achieved in beating reporting restrictions.

Editors of the country’s 1,300 local and regional newspapers will be asked to identify: Major barriers to freedom to report; Any legal and practical changes which have eased your ability to report; If Freedom of Information legislation is being taken seriously by your local public bodies.

NS director David Newell said: “We want to take the temperature on what are the genuine lobbying issues relating to secrecy and the right to know that effect editors in their daily work.

“What we are struck by at the moment is the difficulties people encounter with data protection and human rights legislation being used as excuses for secrecy. We want to assess if this affects all regional newspapers in all parts of the country.”

The results will be published during Local Newspaper Week which will also be running features about Cancer Research UK and fundraising for the charity, and coincides with the Prince’s Trust Local Reporting Awards, open to staff journalists and young people from the local community.

The survey form can be obtained from the NS or via its website at www.newspapersoc.org.uk.

By Jon Slattery

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