TODAY the Worcester News calls on our readers to join us in the battle to prevent the Government bringing in pernicious legislation which threatens the very future of the local press.

You may have heard about a controversial penalty known as Section 40, a response to the national press phone hacking scandal which could become law.

Under this deeply damaging legislation, part of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, publishers face paying both sides' court costs in libel and privacy cases even if they win.

It would apply to media organisations not part of a Royal Charter-backed press regulator, potentially hammering newspapers with eye-watering legal costs even if their journalism is verified as fair and accurate in court.

The impact on titles like the Worcester News is obvious - indeed each and every local newspaper up and down the country would be in grave danger.

It would lead to a raft of spurious complaints made by people unhappy with something they have seen in print, who could challenge matters all the way to the High Court, safe in the knowledge that if they eventually lose the case, the newspaper will pay their costs.

As Henry Faure Walker, the chief executive of Worcester News' publisher Newsquest, puts it: "We have no doubt the consequences of this would be devastating for the local press, and for the principle of press freedom in our democratic society."

It would change the face of our free press as we know it - but you can help us by responding to the Government consultation.

Between now and Tuesday, January 10 we are asking our readers to help by going online and taking a few minutes to respond to the consultation HERE.

Alternatively, you can send an email to offering the Government your views on Section 40.

Our journalism, and our newspapers have proudly spoken up for our readers since the creation of the world's oldest newspaper, the Berrow's Worcester Journal, hit the streets in 1690.

And that's the way we want it to remain.

Free, impartial, honest, fully able to hold those in power to account - and there for the people who need us.

Now we need our readers to speak up for us.