The European Union is quietly pouring millions of pounds into initiatives and groups seeking state-backed regulation of the press, including key allies of the controversial Hacked Off campaign.
Angered by the British media's coverage of Brussels, the European Commission says it wants to be a "moral compass" against press misconduct, seeking new national and Europe-wide regulatory powers over journalists.
The EU has spent £2.3?million on the previously unpublicised "Mediadem" project to "reclaim a free and independent media". In a "policy brief" co-authored by its lead British researcher, Rachael Craufurd Smith, Mediadem says it is "simplistic" to "see state influence [over the press] as inherently stifling".
Dr Craufurd Smith, an Edinburgh University academic, said that it was also "simplistic" to believe that "market-driven media" were now "free and independent".
Mediadem recently produced "recommendations for the UK" demanding the "imposition of sanctions beyond an apology or correction" on errant media outlets and the "co-ordination of the journalistic profession at the European level".