THE Northwich and Winsford & Middlewich Guardians are urging the towns’ MPs to vote against amendments which could seriously damage local journalism and free speech in the Data Protection Bill today, Wednesday.

Members of Parliament are being asked to vote on an amendment to the bill tabled by former Labour leader Ed Miliband, which would establish a new statutory inquiry into the media - including all print, broadcast and online organisations - and inevitably result in more measures damaging to free speech.

A separate amendment by Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party, would introduce costs sanctions into the data protection regime, requiring publishers to pay all the claimants’ costs of legal actions brought against them as well as their own, win or lose.

Despite modifications purporting to exempt local papers, the cost sanctions would still impact on 85 per cent of the local press.

Editors from across the UK have now joined forces to warn that the future of local journalism could be at stake if politicians proposing the draconian law changes get their way.

They say the amendments represent an attack on press freedom and those organisations who report on the activities of public figures, legitimately and in the public interest.

Toby Granville, editorial director for Newsquest, the Northwich and Winsford & Middlewich Guardians’ parent company, added: “MPs must show their support for local journalism and local newspapers today by rejecting the anti-press amendments in the Data Protection Bill.

"Local and regional journalism is simply too important to our democracy to be sacrificed.”

The Northwich and Winsford & Middlewich Guardians have previously reported how the section 40-style proposals would result in it being all but impossible to report any news with people in a story.

Group editor Hayley Smith said: "As a trusted local news organisation and one that hundreds of thousands of Northwich, Winsford and Middlewich residents turn to first to find out what is happening in their town, it is imperative that our ability to report on matters of public interest is maintained.

"We set the highest journalistic standards for our reporters as set by UK media law and through regulation by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, and we hope our MPs Mike Amesbury, Fiona Bruce, Antoinette Sandbach and Esther McVey will support not only us, but all trusted local news organisations across the country today."