A WORCESTERSHRE politician who spent two decades in South Africa has urged the British Government not to muzzle the press - calling Section 40 "tyrannical".

Former judge Peter Jewell, UKIP's justice spokesman, says it risks newspapers being unable to expose wrongdoing.

A consultation over the law, which forces the press to sign up to a state-backed regulator or pay the costs of all libel claims in court, has now ended, with Culture Secretary Karen Bradley due to make a decision.

Mr Jewell, who lives near Worcester, is a former magistrate and tribunal judge - and spent much of his working life in South Africa.

He said: "In essence, this is gagging of the press in the guise of a state sponsored Royal Charter.

"I have lived and travelled to many countries, especially Africa.

"The press are so tightly controlled that no editor would dare speak out against the Government - look at Zimbabwe and South Africa, who have despotic leaders.

Worcester News:

"UKIP has never been befriended by the press and should, on all accounts, wish to have tighter control - but we totally believe in a free press.

"Leaving aside the tabloid and broadsheets, local papers such as the Worcester News are a public information service.

"We want to preserve local newspapers, and not put them in fear of closure."

Under Section 40, part of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, newspapers face having to sign up to Impress, the Government-approved regulator funded by mega-rich tycoon Max Mosley, the ex-Formula 1 chief, or face a serious clampdown on their freedom.

Those titles which refuse and opt to stay with the current regulator IPSO (the Independent Press Standards Organisation), which includes almost every newspaper in Britain, will have to pay the entire court costs in libel and privacy cases - even if they win and the journalism in question is verified as fair and accurate by a judge.

IPSO has the powers to levy £1 million fines and order newspapers to print front page apologies for serious wrongdoing.

A Government-funded quango gave Impress the status of 'approved regulator' last October, despite the group not being recognised by 90 per cent of the press industry.

A YouGov poll last week found just four per cent of people favoured a new state-backed regulator funded by the rich and powerful.