Amid deep international concern about press freedoms in the United Kingdom, an unprecedented international mission to London begins today to investigate the British government's actions relating to newspaper regulation and the handling of revelations of state surveillance.
Top-level meetings are being held with the Secretary of State for Culture Maria Miller MP; John Whittingdale MP the Chairman of the Culture Select Committee; Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger; freedom of expression and civil society groups; professional bodies; industry representatives; and academics to discuss worrying developments in the UK.
Previous press freedom missions have been to countries such as Ethiopia, South Africa, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Myanmar, but this is the first ever mission to the United Kingdom.
The mission has been organised by the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Chief Executive, Vincent Peyrègne said:
"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.
"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.
"We will endeavour to investigate all elements that threaten the United Kingdom's position as a bastion for free and independent media with the same rigour as we have approached other international press freedom hotspots in nearly 70 years of defending freedom of expression worldwide."
The delegation will meet with as many different organisations as possible in order to publish a report in February outlining its conclusions that will be disseminated to other parts of the world.