Global press group visits banana republic UK over newspaper freedom fears

A global media organization began its first press freedom mission to Britain on Wednesday over concerns about the government’s plans to regulate newspapers and its response to the Edward Snowden revelations.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), based in Paris, said it would be holding meetings with Culture Secretary Maria Miller as part of a visit to Britain to discuss “worrying developments”.

It said its previous press freedom missions had been undertaken in countries such as South Africa, Libya, Yemen, Azerbaijan and Myanmar, but never before in Britain.

“The WAN-IFRA membership is deeply concerned by the British authorities’ treatment of the profession of journalism and its attempts to control the public debate,” WAN-IFRA chief executive Vincent Peyrègne said in a statement.

“The British government’s actions have far reaching consequences across the globe – particularly within the Commonwealth – and any threats to the independence of journalism in Britain could be used by repressive regimes worldwide to justify their own controls over the press.”

British newspapers have reacted with alarm and anger to plans for a new regulatory system proposed by the government in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal centered around the British newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.