LOCAL newspaper editors are standing united against a proposal that could end 300 years of press freedom in Britain.

Today, MPs will vote on amendments to the Data Protection Bill proposed by Labour.

The first aspect will be a vote aiming to establish a broad new statutory inquiry into data protection issues in the media, after the second part of the Leveson inquiry was dropped by government.

And a vote on a separate amendment could see newspaper publishers face all the claimants' costs of any legal action brought against them, regardless of if they win or lose, unless they are signed up to a state-backed regulator.

Following the Leveson Inquiry, a state-approved regulator, Impress, was set up for the first time since 1695, but only 104 local publications across the UK are signed up as members.

The News Media Association said the proposed changes would impact 85 per cent of the local press in the UK as well as national newspapers and magazines, despite modifications “purporting to exempt local papers”.

And in a survey by the association, 92 per cent of editors said they do not believe another Leveson-style inquiry into the media should take place, while 69 per cent thought some local newspapers would close if the cost amendments became law.

Bill Browne, Editor-in-Chief, of the Advertiser, said: “There are many people with vested interests who wish to curb freedom of speech. They do it because they have something to hide.

"You can go no better than the phrase often used by Bob Woodward, the man credited for uncovering the Watergate scandal in the USA. His phrase ‘Democracy dies in darkness’ is now the motto of the Washington Post.”

Newsquest editorial development director Toby Granville said: "MPs must show their support for local journalism and local newspapers on Wednesday 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."