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Last chance to have say in fight to keep free press

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A consultation on controversial plans that could cripple the newspaper industry is due to end today.

Readers have until 5pm to have a say on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which would make newspapers pay all court costs in libel and privacy cases even if they win, unless they signed up to a state-approved regulator.

Critics have warned the move would see hundreds of newspapers going to the wall, while those that remained in business would be severely restricted on what they could report.

Shropshire Star editor Martin Wright said: "A free press is a vital part of any democracy society and, as such, Section 40 poses a grave threat to our society. If

The only regulator that has Government approval is Impress, which is backed by anti-media campaigners including Max Mosley.

MPs including Glyn Davies, Owen Paterson and Government Chief Whip, South Staffordshire's Gavin Williamson, are among those to question the credibility of Impress to regulate the media.

Fellow Tory MP Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, warned the legislation could create a new industry of "ambulance-chasing lawyers" encouraging people to hire them on no-win, no-fee terms to take up complaints against the press.

More than 2,500 media outlets are signed up with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), while no major newspapers have joined Impress.

The IPSO code of conduct is similar to that of the state-approved regulator, but crucially, it is independent of any political control.

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The Section 40 proposal was introduced after the Leveson Report on press ethics.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley is expected to rule on whether or not to enact it in the coming weeks.

She has previously acknowledged that the legislation could have a negative impact on 'a vibrant free local press'.

To have your say before 5pm today visit www.research.net/r/9WH5LV3

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