Why you need to tell your MP to stop the amendments to the Data Protection Bill and protect UK journalism

James Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post.
James Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post.
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Dear Reader, Tomorrow MPs will vote on proposed amendments to the Data Protection Bill that will, if successful, force newspapers like The Yorkshire Post to accept the Orwellian fate of State-sponsored regulation, or face Damoclean legal costs which would deter and distract regional newspaper editors, inhibiting our ability to undertake rigorous public interest journalism on your behalf, for fear of retaliative financial attacks.

There are two amendments proposed: one by former Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband and one by current Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson, which fundamentally threaten your right to know:

The Watson Amendment: this will introduce new costs sanctions which will force most publishers to pay all claimants’ costs in any legal action, win or lose;

The Miliband Amendment: brings yet another inquiry into all media organisations with a view to establishing more limitations as to what we can and cannot publish about those we hold to account, restricting our ability to publish and compromising your right to know.

As a journalist of 16 years, I cannot foresee how I or any other regional newspaper editor will be able to confidently and robustly scrutinise, as the Fourth Estate must in this country, the activities of those beholden to the general public without fear of malicious legal retribution the like of which would imperil our very existence.

It cannot be right that politicians are contemplating putting into law that the regional media must pay the legal costs of someone whom we had every right to expose. Nor can it be right that the State itself calls the tune on what we can and can’t publish - backed by Max Mosley. What would that say to the rest of the world about our commitment to democracy?

The Yorkshire Post will, of course, scrutinise the vote, however there is still time for you to let your MP know whether or not you want editors like me to be free to continue campaigning for and championing the people and regions we serve - without fear of State-sponsored interference, nor of paying eye-wateringly punitive costs. Please don’t leave it to someone else. This is simply too important.