The archbishop of Canterbury has said 'there is nothing more important' than a free press holding people to account.
Justin Welby said journalists are 'indispensable' as he spoke to students at Canterbury Christ Church University.
'In most of the countries where Anglicans live... there is no freedom of the press, or the press is corrupted in one way or another. In many places people will be tortured, threatened, bribed – all of the above,' he said in an interview with journalism students.
'For all the irritations of the press, and I can get as cross with reading a paper as anyone, what they do is hold people to account and make sure we have a free society – there is nothing more important.'
Welby was speaking ahead of his lecture tonight on 'Reimagining Britain', the title of his book looking at reasons for hope for the UK.
The editor of the Kent Messenger, Denise Eaton, agreed with the Archbishop's comments, saying the role of the journalist was 'indispensable', according to the Press Gazette.
She said: 'One of the main duties of the press is to hold power to account. We scrutinise and challenge much of the work conducted on behalf of the public and I'd be concerned if such a key component of local democracy was to be lost.
'I'm very much an advocate of holding authority to account, and long may this role – served by local media for hundreds of years – continue.'