Safety of Journalists

Why is it important? 

Journalists have a fundamental role to play in holding power to account on behalf of the public. Sadly, those who wish to avoid such scrutiny can resort to threatening journalists with physical violence or other forms of intimidation in order to censor their reporting. In some countries, journalists are physically attacked or killed in order to suppress legitimate journalistic activity. In the UK, journalists are increasingly subjected to threats and intimidation on social media.  In 2019, journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in Northern Ireland.    

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Current threats 

Journalists at home and overseas are subject to myriad threats and abuses, all aimed at silencing legitimate reporting. Many of these abuses are listed in Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index which graphically spells out the threats to journalists across the globe.

In autumn last year, UNESCO warned that there had been a sharp escalation in violence against journalists during the first half of 2020 which saw police and security forces violate media freedoms during protests around the world.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has described attacks on journalists as “outrageous” and has called for Governments across the world to take action to protect media workers.

More recently, fears have been raised over the safety of journalists working in Afghanistan, prompting the NMA to join forces with leading UK media organisations in calling on the Prime Minister to take action to protect journalists working there.

In the UK, surveys of journalists have laid bare the abuse and intimidation experienced by journalists on a daily basis on social media, and reporters have also experienced physical violence and harrassment while covering protests. In 2019, journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in Northern Ireland.   

Journalists at home and overseas are subject to myriad threats and abuses, including rape and death threats, all aimed at silencing legitimate reporting.


The NMA is working with policy-makers, media organisations and other stakeholders to promote a safer environment for journalists to work in both at home and overseas. 


What is the NMA doing about it?  

The NMA is working to promote a safer environment for journalists. It represents the industry on the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists which earlier this year produced the National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists. 

A major part of that work is the publication of the guide 'Combatting Online Harassment and Abuse: a Legal Guide for Journalists in England and Wales' which was commissioned by the Media Lawyers Association and DCMS to highlight how to use the law to prevent online abuse and provide practical guidance to journalists experiencing abuse.

The guide, written by Beth Grossman and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC of Doughty Street Chambers, focuses on the impact online abuse can have on individual journalists, the implications for freedom of speech caused by self-censorship, measures to prevent journalists leaving the profession, and the issue of online abuse turning into physical harassment.

The guide details tools and techniques journalists and employers can use, including keeping detailed evidence logs, sharing information with relevant safety personnel, taking steps to minimise exposure to abusive content, and evaluating whether to engage with abuse or not, as well as information on how to make complaints and take legal action.

The NMA has also worked with the Media Freedom Coalition which aims to protect the rights and safety of journalists across the world.

Safety of Journalists News

European Commission Vice President: Media Is Pillar of Democracy
The European Commission has warned that increased attacks on the media by authoritarian regimes are causing a "pillar of democracy" to crack, as the Commission launched a consultation on new rule...

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New Report Warns Number Of Jailed Journalists At Global High
The number of journalists jailed around the world set another record in 2021, as repressive regimes crack down on the independent press, a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalist...

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Journalism Matters Launches With Culture Secretary Call To Back ‘Our World-renowned News Industry’
Journalism Matters, the news media sector’s campaign to highlight the importance of trusted journalism, launched this week with a public call by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries MP to back ...

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Reach Appoints Dr Rebecca Whittington As Industry’s First Online Safety Editor
Reach has announced the appointment of Dr Rebecca Whittington in its newly created online safety editor role, a first in the industry.  Dr Whittington started out as an online and video...

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Two Weeks Until Journalism Matters Campaign
Two weeks remain until Journalism Matters, the news media industry’s annual campaign to highlight the importance of trusted journalism, kicks off. The annual weeklong campaign, which i...

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Journalism Matters To Run In November
Journalism Matters, the news media industry’s annual campaign to highlight the importance of trusted journalism, will run from 1-7 November this year. Coordinated by the News Media Ass...

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Von Der Leyen Promises Action On Journalists Safety
A new law will be introduced in Europe to crack down on threats to media freedom which must be stopped in order to promote and protect transparency, European Commission President von der Leyen ha...

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Calls For EU To Defend Press Freedom
Calls for the European Union to step up and take action have increased after a new report laid bare the threats faced by reporters in EU member countries. In recent years, journalists have b...

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Guide For Journalists Dealing With Online Abuse Launched
A new guide providing practical information to journalists on how to deal with online abuse has been published as part of the ongoing action plan for the safety of journalists. The guide 'Co...

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Reach Recruits Online Safety Editor In Industry First
Reach has announced the search for a candidate to fill a newly created online safety editor role, the first of its kind in the UK. Following an internal survey answered by over 550 employees...

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