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World's Media Call on Queen to Reject Royal Charter

A group of leading global press freedom and media organisations have written an open letter to Queen Elizabeth II asking her to reject a proposed Royal Charter that would impose repressive statutory controls on the British press.

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"For more than three centuries since Britain abolished the last set of statutory controls on the press in 1695, the United Kingdom has been a consistent champion of the most crucial freedom of all - freedom of expression – and a beacon of liberty across the world," said the letter, signed by seven international media organisations (see below).

"Freedom of expression was central to the European Convention of Human Rights which Britain helped draft. It is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the UK is a signatory. It is a core belief in the Commonwealth Charter which Britain inspired. Free speech and freedom of expression have throughout the 20th and 21st centuries therefore been at the core of Britain's international commitments, of its leadership of the free world, and of its international reputation as a liberal democracy.

"Yet all that is now in danger. No one should be in any doubt that the proposed Royal Charter which politicians are forcing Your Majesty to sign is, despite the camouflage, in reality a set of repressive statutory controls being imposed on the press against its will. That should not be the function of a Royal Charter."

The letter said the Charter would not only have an impact on press freedom in the United Kingdom, but would be used by repressive regimes worldwide to justify their own control of the press.

"The actions of Britain's Parliament will be used as an excuse by those who want to muzzle the press in their own country and stifle the free flow of information – and there are many governments who would love to do so," the letter said. "And it is your name, Your Majesty, that will regrettably be taken in vain. 'If it is good enough for the Queen, it is good enough for us.'"

The letter was signed by the following members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations: Commonwealth Press Union Trust, The Worldwide Magazine Media Association (FIPP), the Inter American Press Association, the International Association of Broadcasting, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and the World Press Freedom Committee.

The proposed Royal Charter on Self Regulation of the Press – a misnomer, since it is part of several proposals growing from the Leveson inquiry that would impose statutory regulation of the press – raises serious questions about the future direction of independent press regulation. The industry has described it as being neither voluntary nor independent, with some fearing it gives politicians too much power.

Reports suggest that since Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press behaviour, as many as 59 journalists have been arrested under three separate police investigations. None have been convicted and many have spent months on police bail.

www.wan-ifra.org

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