CPJ urges UK political parties to reconsider royal charter

New York, October 28, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Britain’s three main political parties to reconsider a royal charter that would establish a new press regulator in the United Kingdom. The Privy Council, the assembly that formally advises the Queen, is scheduled to review on Wednesday the proposed charter agreed by the three parties.

“We are disappointed that British politicians have decided to ignore the concerns of many international and British press freedom advocates and embed press regulation in law,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Press legislation, no matter how well intentioned, could set an unfortunate precedent for countries–particularly those that have inherited elements of the British parliamentary system–that seek to restrict media freedom.”

In March, responding to a recommendation by Lord Justice Leveson, Britain’s main political parties agreed to set up a new press watchdog by means of a royal charter; the watchdog would have the powers to impose large fines on U.K. publishers and demand apologies from newspapers. Newspapers proposed their own version of a watchdog, but the Privy Council rejected it earlier this month.

CPJ urged Prime Minister David Cameron in a letter in April to drop the idea of a royal charter backed by statute.