Meyer says press freedom being chipped away

The freedom of the press is being "chipped away" by the Government, Press Complaints Commission chairman Sir Christopher Meyer has warned.

The problem stemmed from the fact that politicians overestimated the influence of the press, he said as he gave a lecture entitled Protecting the Press or the People? at a London conference.

It was now also harder to find out what was going on in government than it was 10 years ago, Sir Christopher told an event organised at the London School of Economics on November 13 by the journalism think-tank Polis.

British newspapers did not need tougher controls, the Holdthefrontpage website reported Sir Christopher as saying.

"I believe the boundaries of freedom of expression seem to be closing in a bit on newspapers and magazines in a way which may not be healthy," he was quoted as saying.

"I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I don't believe in Government plotting to curb freedom of expression.

"But when you read that after two years, there are proposals to make it more difficult to obtain information under the Freedom of Information Act, you have to worry."

He was also concerned about changes in the culture of Government media relations, and about changes to the law.

Departments such as the Foreign Office used to give journalists daily "on the record" briefings, but now only held press conferences when the Foreign Secretary had something to say.

"In 2006 it is harder to find out what is going on in Government than it was 10 years ago.

"Hundreds of years of press freedom are being blown away in a decade," Sir Christopher said.

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