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International Delegation: UK Press Freedom Mission

An unprecedented top-level press freedom mission is being sent to the United Kingdom by the world's press freedom organisations in response to recent actions by the British government.

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The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) –- will lead the international delegation of concerned publishers and editors to halt continued attacks on press freedoms in the country.

WAN-IFRA has previously conducted press freedom missions to Ethiopia, South Africa, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, and many other countries, but this is the first such mission to the United Kingdom.

The announcement of a press freedom mission coincides with start of the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka this week, where press freedom will be high on the agenda.

Vincent Peyrègne, CEO of the Paris-based WAN-IFRA, the global organisation of the world's newspapers and news publishers said:

"A press freedom mission to the United Kingdom is unprecedented and we cannot underestimate our concern for what is happening.

"It is rather difficult for the United Kingdom to lecture Sri Lanka and others about their press freedom record, when its own actions result in such widespread international condemnation."

The mission is a direct response to recent actions widely seen as contrary to press freedom guarantees: government interference in the regulation of the independent press, through the Royal Charter and associated legislation, but will also include discussion of the criticism of The Guardian for its coverage of the revelations from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

"We are concerned that these actions not only seriously damage the United Kingdom's historic international reputation as a staunch defender of press freedom, but provides encouragement to non-democratic regimes to justify their own repressive actions," continued Mr Peyrègne.

The delegation will arrive in London in January and will include publishers and editors from five continents. It is expected to meet with government and opposition leaders, press industry figures, civil society organisations and others.

In advance of the press freedom mission, "we will be talking with our members in the Commonwealth and beyond, to collect information on the impact the UK actions are having on their own situations," said Mr Peyrègne. "I think it will be important for government leaders to hear from them."

www.wan-ifra.org

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