FREEDOM of speech is a fundamental part of any democracy but, sadly, it is all too easily taken for granted writes TV presenter Ben Fogle.
The right to question authority, to hold power to account, and to expose wrongdoing faces a near constant array of both direct and indirect threats to its existence.
But it is a right that must be defended at all costs if we in the UK truly believe in the core principles of democracy.
Overt attempts to censor the press through crude newspaper bans or draconian laws designed to clamp down on free speech must be firmly resisted.
And the more insidious dangers posed by the global rise of fake news cannot be underestimated.
Local newspapers and their millions of readers are part of the fightback against fake news.
By producing high quality, trusted local journalism, local papers actively counter the misinformation and falsehood which can spread so rapidly through other channels.
Through their reporting and campaigning, local papers hold councils and other public and private institutions to account, underpinning democracy at a local level.
They promote good causes and speak out on behalf of their readers on the issues that matter when they have nowhere else to turn.
And, as Making a Difference demonstrates, local newspaper campaigning delivers real, tangible results.
If we truly believe in democracy and free speech then we must reject censorship and fake news and stand up for local papers by supporting the fantastic work they do day in day out across the UK.
I count myself as a firm supporter of local newspapers and that’s why I am delighted to support this year’s Local Newspaper Week and Making a Difference.