Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 was introduced following the phone hacking scandal and Levison inquiry.
It was the single biggest move to try and force newspapers to sign up to a formal regulator, by forcing papers who refuse to do so to pay legal fees of those who sue them even if the paper wins.
No major papers have signed up to the only state-recognised regulator, Impress.
Most papers are part of the elective Independent Press Standards Organisation, and some, such as the Guardian, are only self-regulated.
IPSO has been described as a “sham”, which is controlled by the same papers it is meant to regulate.
IPSO’s code does require papers not publish inaccurate material, but has neither the power nor enforcement mechanisms to do anything if papers do so.
The National Union of Journalists backs the state regulator Impress, and says that under IPSO journalists have no protections from being pushed into publishing or writing untruthful stories or stories that are unethical.
If the UK Government wish to repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts act, then it must provide an alternative means of getting papers to sign up to Impress.
For too long, there has been a complete lack of meaningful regulation, resulting in a situation where papers are less regulated than all other forms of news media.
The Government has a balancing act to do, to balance the rights of individuals who have been maligned or misreported on, and to balance the need of journalists to be free to report on issues of public importance.
It is a balancing act that simply repealing section 40 will not achieve.
We need action to force papers to sign up to a genuine independent regulator, to protect both the public and journalists.
The SNP will therefore be opposing the repeal of section 40.