Int'l body OSCE worried about British press freedom

International monitoring body the OSCE has warned that government plans in Britain for a new media regulator risked undermining the freedom of the press.

"A government-established regulatory body, regardless of how independent it is intended to be, could pose a threat to media freedom," Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE's press freedom representative, said Monday.

"I still believe that self-regulation is the best way to deal with ethical lapses and failures to comply with professional standards," she added in a statement.

She said that the British tradition of self-regulation is regarded around the world as a "best practice", adding it should not be sacrificed because of flaws in its application.

"The phone-hacking scandal was a criminal issue and the people involved are being prosecuted," Mijatovic said. "This should not be used as an excuse to rein in all print media."

British political leaders said the new regulator would help curb abuses laid bare in last year's Leveson Inquiry into media ethics following a major phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World tabloid, but without endangering press freedom.

Britain's newspapers vowed to closely scrutinise the deal, with The Times calling it "a bleak episode in the story of freedom of the press in Britain".

The Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, created during the Cold War as a forum for dialogue between East and West and now covering most of the northern hemisphere, conducts election monitoring, arms control and conflict prevention worldwide.