The World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA) has arrived in the UK amid concerns over press freedoms in the wake of the Royal Charter press regulation legislation and the treatment of the Guardian newspaper following the Edward Snowden revelations.
WAN-IFRA has previously sent delegations to countries such as Ethiopia, South Africa, Libya, Yemen, Colombia and Azerbaijan, and the trip marks the organisation's first press freedom mission to the UK.
Vincent Peyrègne, WAN-IFRA chief executive, said the organisation was “deeply concerned” by the behaviour of British authorities.
A series of meetings will be held as part of the trip with culture secretary maria Miller MP, chairman of the Commons culture committee John Whittingdale MP and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.
“The WAN-IFRA membership is deeply concerned by the British authorities’ treatment of the profession of journalism and its attempts to control the public debate,” said Peyrègne.
“The British government’s actions have far reaching consequences across the globe – particularly within the Commonwealth – and any threats to the independence of journalism in Britain could be used by repressive regimes worldwide to justify their own controls over the press.”
He added: “We will endeavour to investigate all elements that threaten the United Kingdom’s position as a bastion for free and independent media with the same rigour as we have approached other international press freedom hotspots in nearly 70 years of defending freedom of expressions worldwide.”
In August, the secretary general of the Council of Europe wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May demanding an explanation after Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was held under anti-terrorism legislation for nine hours at Heathrow airport. The incident followed hot on the heels of Greenwald’s work on the Edward Snowden US whistleblower stories, which exposed the extent to which the US and other authorities were using digital technologies to monitor citizens’ movements.
In addition to the controversy, publishers in the UK spent much of 2013 battling with Westminster over the creation of a system of press regulation following the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.
Publishers say that the government’s Royal Charter method of regulating the press amounts to state interference, while campaign groups such as Hacked Off say action must be taken to protect members of the public in the wake of recent scandals such as phone-hacking.