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Sunday, November 7, 1999 Published at 12:56 GMT

UK: Wales

Editor condemns 'weak' freedom bill

Newspapers thrive in an open society

Government plans for freedom of information have been attacked by the new president of the Society of Editors.

"The Government's proposed freedom of information legislation is weak and shows no genuine commitment to a free and open society," said Neil Fowler, editor of The Western Mail.

"This government - like all others before it - seems, sadly, to hold the view that politicians and civil servants know best and the people shall know nothing at all," Mr Fowler told the society's annual conference in Portsmouth on Sunday.

Last month Home Secretary Jack Straw announced concessions to proposed freedom of information legislation.

These included stronger powers for a new information commissioner and changes to disclosures about accident and safety inquiries.

But campaigners said Mr Straw had not gone far enough and the new measures would not prevent scandals being covered up.

Mr Fowler said the 400-member society, representing national, regional and broadcasting editors, would continue to lobby for changes in the legislation.

"An open society leads to a healthier and wealthier society," he said.

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