Latest News

11 July 2019

Hunt: Government To Review Impact Of Legislation On Press Freedom

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a review of British legislation and its impact on press freedom at the global conference for media freedom in London yesterday.

The commitment on the legislative review was one of five steps outlined by Mr Hunt as part of his 'Media freedom and journalists under threat' speech.

Mr Hunt said: “For our part, the British government will ensure that whenever we propose or amend a law, we will consider the potential impact on press freedom.”

Previous Labour Governments under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown proposed similar "freedom of expression audits" where the Government would have had to consult before it brought forward legislation which might impact upon media reporting.

The News Media Assocation had suggested the initiative and discussed it with Government at the time. 

Speaking in October 2007, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “There is a case for applying our enduring ideas of liberty to ensure that the laws governing the press in this country fully respect freedom of speech… and to make sure that in pursuing essential policy objectives like combating terrorism and tackling hate crime any new measures do not curb legitimate liberties to speak and be heard - Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, will investigate the idea of a freedom of expression audit for future legislation.”

The NMA will now write to the Foreign Office to progress the review.

In his speech yesterday, Mr Hunt said: "A free media does more than just criticise failure and deter wrongdoing: it also nurtures and nourishes the progress of ideas. Throughout history, humanity has achieved its swiftest progress whenever we have allowed ideas to be freely debated, tested and challenged.

"No discovery was ever achieved and no invention perfected by the suffocating tools of suppression or censorship. The open exchange of ideas through a free media allows the genius of a society to breathe, releasing the originality and creativity of the entire population."

Other steps announced by Mr Hunt included establishing a new global media defence fund, to be administered by UNESCO, where Britain will provide £3 million to the fund over the next five years.

Additionally, he announced the creation of an international task force, to help governments to deliver their commitments on media freedom, which would be annually reviewed at the UN General Assembly.

The fourth pledge was a rapid response mechanism to be set up made up of "likeminded countries" which jointly lobby when media freedom comes under attack.

Mr Hunt concluded by calling on all countries in attendance to sign the global pledge on media freedom, which resolves that they will "work together as a coalition to promote media freedom and to meet again next year."

He said: "Amid the bleak news, today we are joined by delegations from over 100 countries, including 60 Ministers, and more than 1,500 journalists, academics and campaigners. Never before have so many countries come together in this cause.

"And today we send a resounding message that media freedom is not a Western but a universal value. At its best, a free media both protects society from the abuse of power and helps release the full potential of a nation."