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April 1, 2015

Lib Dems in election pledge to provide UK ‘first amendment’ guaranteeing a free press

By PA Mediapoint and Press Gazette

The Liberal Democrats are to set out plans for a legal right to protect journalists from state interference and end ministers appointing the heads of broadcasting regulators, it has been reported.

The Guardian said the Lib Dem general election manifesto will include the outlines of a proposed charter on press freedom, based on the United States first amendment.

The paper said the plan would mean that journalists would no longer have to rely solely upon article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights for the protection of freedom of expression.

Other measures are said to include ending the right of ministers to appoint the chairmen of Ofcom and the BBC Trust, making media takeovers subject to parliamentary scrutiny, and a requirement for Ofcom to undertake regular reviews of media plurality.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: "Liberal Democrats believe that we must always defend the right of a free press to do its work without fear or favour. We have long supported freedom of expression and sought to increase protections for journalists.

"In government we have passed the Defamation Act to protect against vested interest stifling investigation and reporting.

"We want to go further, by enshrining in law further protections on free speech and we will set out our details plans in the near future."

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The Liberal Democrats were the first political party to back the Press Gazette Save Our Sources campaign, lobbying in Parliament for the change in the law which came into force last week.

Under a statutory instrument passed last week police officers must now get the approval of a judge if they wish to view a journalists' phone records in order to find a source.

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