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21 January 2021

UK To Work With US To Protect Press Freedom

The UK will work with the United States and other countries to promote and defend press freedom, the Foreign Secretary has said, after America suffered more than 360 assaults on journalists since the beginning of 2020.  

Responding to a Parliamentary question from Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, during a debate this week about the storming of US Capitol, Mr Raab said he had personally discussed the events with his US counterparts.  

Mr Raab said: “The press must be allowed to cover events without fear or denial of access. We have discussed our concerns about the violent events that we saw at official level, but also at Ministerial level. I have done that myself.

“I can assure him no British journalists were detained. Of course, working with Canada and others, we have a media freedom coalition, and we certainly look forward to co-operating with the US and many others to pioneer that work through our global leadership year in 2021.”

Mr Collins said: “There were 342 assaults on journalists in America last year and there have been 13 further this year. Will my right hon. Friend work with the new Administration in America to protect the rights of journalists around the world, and also call on social media companies to do more, not just to tackle harmful disinformation, but to make sure that social media platforms are not used to incite attacks against journalists?”

A UNESCO report late last year warned of a sharp escalation in global abuse of journalists during the first half of 2020 where police and security forces have violated media freedom during protests around the world.  

UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said: “Journalists have a critical role in reporting and informing audiences on protest movements.

“For many years, UNESCO has been raising global awareness to ensure that they can do this safely and without fear of persecution, and training security forces and the judiciary on international norms in freedom of expression.

“The figures in this report show that much greater efforts are needed. We call on the international community and all relevant authorities to ensure that these fundamental rights are upheld.”