The global economic downturn has forced the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) to postpone its annual congress, set to take place in the Indian city of Hyderabad, a spokesman said today.

The Paris-based association said the March 22-25 event, the world's biggest annual gathering of newspaper editors and executives, has been pushed back to a later date because of the 'global economic and financial crisis.'

The WAN, which represents 18,000 newspapers, news agencies and press associations in 100 countries, hopes to reschedule the event in late November, at a venue yet to be decided.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the association had signed up fewer than 250 delegates for the event, which traditionally draws up to 1,500, amid a wave of drastic belt-tightening in the global media industry.