SOUTH Essex MPs have expressed their support for a free press and the work of the Echo to inform its readers.

As part of Local Newspaper Week representatives across the county highlighted the importance of local newspapers.

Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, said: “Whilst the print industry generally faces an ongoing challenge from online forms of media, the Echo is a much loved local newspaper.

“Talking to other colleagues in Parliament it is very unusual to have a daily local newspaper.

“Residents very much enjoy in particular the coverage of local community events and the newspaper plays an important role in highlighting issues of concern locally.

“Freedom of the press is one of the UK’s fundamental values.

“Of course, the press must be accountable for their actions but legislation should not in any sense undermine the freedom of the press.”

Another Southend MP has also offered his support to local newspapers as part of this week’s campaign, showing how important it is for news organisations to be allowed to hold authorities to account.

James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East, said: “I read the Echo every day.

“It is an important source of local information and creates a strong sense of community spirit.

“It is vital that we have a free press in this country to hold its elected representatives to account, and that the government does not muzzle free and fair speech.”

Readers have also been urged to support the Echo during Local Newspaper Week.

David Dinsmore is chairman of the News Media Association, the trade association for national, regional and local news media publishers.

He said: “I have always been a firm believer in the power of journalism as a force for good in our society.

“At its best, journalism is a messy and chaotic business which challenges and disrupts authority in order to expose the truth.

“It’s not an easy job and, sometimes it can feel a bit like we’re in the firing line, with people bellowing down the phone because they don’t like what we’ve written or said.

“But, following on from that initial disruption, good things can flow which change society for the better.

“We don’t have to look far to find strong examples of this in local journalism.

“I am struck by the enormous value that local journalism adds to people’s lives. It’s hard to define and measure but it clearly exists.

“This value, created by people who believe in the power of journalism, is what sets our industry apart.

“For now, the industry has seen off the threat of Section 40-style costs sanctions and the sprawling inquiry but we must remain vigilant and alert to these dangers.”

Mr Dinsmore said it was “appalling” the UK is ranked 40th in the world for press freedom, and said it was in part down to political manoeuvrings to limit press freedom.

He said: “Despite this, we have so much to be proud of.

“Our local newspapers produce high quality local journalism which makes a real difference, day in day out.

“Forty-two million people, 83 per cent of the population, count themselves as local newspaper readers, in print or digital.

“We must use Local Newspaper Week to shout unashamedly about the immense value of local journalism and we’d like to invite you, our readers, to do the same.

“Your opinion counts above all others.”

Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014 would have forced newspapers to pay costs for a legal action against them, whether they win or lose.

The amendment to the Data Protection Bill was tabled by deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson.

Were s40 of the Data Protection Bill to have been approved, culture secretary Matt Hancock said that a full review would be launched into local newspapers within two months of its approval.

Fortunately, the amendment was defeated.

It means newspapers can face action when things are wrong, but not when they are correct. To promote the freedom of the press today is Trusted News Day.