LOCAL newspaper editors have warned fresh attempts to tighten press regulation would cause “irreparable damage” to the industry.

They are urging MPs to vote against amendments to the Data Protection Bill tomorrow.

The first, tabled by former Labour leader Ed Miliband, could establish a new statutory inquiry into the media after the Government scrapped the second part of Leveson, provoking fury from campaigners.

A second amendment, by Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, seeks to introduce a controversial costs measure which would see publishers not signed up to a state-supported regulator pay their own and their opponent’s legal costs in relation to alleged data protection breaches, even if they were successful in court.

Local newspaper editors from independent weeklies and large publishing companies have come together to criticise the proposals.

In a joint statement, released by the News Media Association (NMA), they said: “The draconian measures would cause irreparable damage to the sector if enacted.”

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.”

Trinity Mirror regionals editorial director Alan Edmunds said: “We do not want our journalists facing the spectre of Leveson 2 when attempting to report on the activities of public figures, entirely legitimately and in the public interest.

“Another huge inquiry would only embolden those who would rather keep their activities hidden from scrutiny.”

An anonymous survey of local newspaper editors carried out by the NMA found 92% of respondents did not think another “Leveson-style” inquiry should take place, with the remaining 8% saying they were not sure.

Not one of the 68 who replied to the survey said they thought the inquiry should go ahead.

Maidenhead Advertiser editor Martin Trepte said: “The amendments represent an attack on press freedom which is completely unacceptable in our society.

“As a point of principle, we stand united against these attacks on free speech and urge all MPs to do likewise by voting against all the amendments on Wednesday.”

Keith Harrison, the editor of the Express & Star, added: “One of the fundamental principles at the Express & Star is our unwavering commitment to independent journalism which is completely free from any form of state interference.

“The sustained attempts to bring in Section 40 costs sanctions and kick off a sprawling inquiry into the media undermine this principle and we therefore oppose them.”