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March 29, 2007

Breakthrough for Press Gazette FoI campaign

By Dominic Ponsford1

The Government showed today that it has taken on board the massive and unprecedented opposition from Britain’s journalists to its proposals to water down the Freedom of Information Act, by announcing a second round of consultation on the plans.

The proposed Freedom of Information and Data Protection Regulations would have had a massive impact on journalists’ ability to use the FoI Act.

Director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information Maurice Frankel said that under the new rules: “Any penetrating requests would be very likely to be refused in future.”

This Government has had a rocky relationship with the press in recent years, but it now deserves credit and thanks for listening to the argument and thinking again on these dreadful FoI proposals.

Hopefully, Press Gazette’s Don’t Kill FoI Campaign had some impact on the decision-making process. It would have been a foolhardy government indeed to ignore the views of the editors of nearly every national and daily newspaper in the land – who signed our e-petition.

The extended consultation period, until 21 June, will mean that the final say on the new FoI rules is likely to lie with Gordon Brown, rather than Tony Blair.

Let’s hope he is true to his word and honours the commitment he gave editors and newspaper executives at a Journalists’ Charity lunch earlier this month, when he said: “It’s easy for politicians to say one thing and do another – but I do think we should defend British liberties and that we can be a beacon for the world with the contribution our press makes.”

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