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UK political row over mooted censorship plan

Prominent members of the UK government have been revealed to be at odds over mooted plans to vet TV programmes before their transmission

Home Secretary Theresa May has sought approval for a new range of measures to tackle religious extremism, which included giving communications regulator Ofcom the ability to censure programmes ahead of broadcast.

However, UK newspaper the Guardian has published a copy of a leaked letter from former Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, written to Prime Minister David Cameron before the UK election, which took place earlier this month.

“Extending Ofcom’s powers to enable it to take pre-emptive action would move it from its current position as a post-transmission regulator into the role of censor,” Javid wrote. “This would involve a fundamental shift in the way UK broadcasting is regulated, away from the current framework which is designed to take appropriate account of the right to freedom of expression.”

He added: “Extending Ofcom’s powers to enable it to take pre-emptive action would move it from its current position as a post-transmission regulator into the role of censor. This would involve a fundamental shift in the way UK broadcasting is regulated, away from the current framework which is designed to take appropriate account of the right to freedom of expression.”

Javid also noted that pre-broadcast censorship was often at odds with the principle of freedom of speech. “It should also be noted that other countries with a pre-transmission regulatory regime are not known for their compliance with rights relating to freedom of expression and government may not wish to be associated with such regimes.”

The Prime Minister’s response to the letter and whether it has affected policy decisions are not known.