Proposed amendments on the Data Protection Bill would have the power to ratchet up pressure on editors—and make a poor example of the British pressby Rachael Jolley / May 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
When Michelle Tolley from Sparham, Norfolk, was infected with Hepatitis C following a blood transfusion while giving birth in 1987, she turned to her local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, for help.
The EDP and other regional papers ran a campaign that uncovered the use of blood-clotting products by the NHS that were made from plasma donated through high-risk sources, such as paid donors in the United States.
The blood factor products had caused people to be infected with diseases including HIV and Hep C.
Last year, Inside Housing magazine won an award from the British Society of Magazine Editors for its reporting around the causes of the Grenfell Tower fire. The magazine launched a “Never Again” campaign calling for changes in housing regulations that would ensure that the appalling tragedy would not be repeated.
Local newspapers and trade magazines constantly report on details and stories that would otherwise go unchallenged and uncovered. Important investigative reporting takes one person’s story and works at digging out more, and then calls for changes to make a difference to people’s lives. When we talk about having “a free press” in the United Kingdom, this is why.
Investigating reporting matters
The cost of detailed reporting is expensive. But it is important. And that’s why cash-strapped editors continue to do it—even as they risk law suits from those that would rather those stories were not told.
Proposed amendments on the Data Protection Bill, discussed in parliament on Wednesday, would have the power to ratchet up pressure on local news organisations that do this kind of work, encouraging them to just give up and focus instead on the easy stuff, forsaking the important work that makes a difference.
Do we want to live in a country where a lawsuit by a big business could force a daily local newspaper to back away from a story because it is just too much of a risk? Do we want to ramp up the chances of that happening?
One aspect of this bill could do just that, forcing, for instance, a regional paper to pay both sides of an enormously expensive lawsuit as a big company tries to force them to stop reporting. These amendments to limit press freedom are being shoe-horned into the Data Protection Bill. It was not designed…