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26 September 2019

Government: UK Has ‘Moral Imperative’ To Oppose Threats To Press Freedom

The UK believes there is a “moral imperative” to stop the threat to media freedom across the globe and the Government is committed to continuing its campaign to stamp out abuses against the media, the United Nations General Assembly in New York heard this week.

Hosting a meeting bringing together representatives of Governments, international organisations, civil society and the media in the margins of the General Assembly, the UK Minister for Human Rights Lord Ahmad said that a free media is essential to any democracy.

The meeting was part of the Foreign Office's campaign to promote and defend media freedom across the globe which launched with a global conference for media freedom in July.

The News Media Association has been in discussions with the Foreign Office since the campaign’s inception and met with officials today to discuss next steps.   

In an op ed for The Telegraph this week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “When journalists come under assault, we’ll be there to defend them – with a Global Media Defence Fund backed by £3million of UK funding.

“Working with Unesco, the fund will train journalists, help keep them safe, and provide legal assistance in some of the most dangerous places journalists work – whether it’s reporting on the Taliban from Afghanistan or tracking cartel violence in Mexico.”

“When we leave the EU, we will also reinforce our sanctions legislation to hold those who commit serious abuses of human rights to account – by barring them from entering the UK and freezing their assets such as bank accounts.

"That will provide a layer of UK accountability against those who target journalists, whistle-blowers and human rights campaigners with impunity in their own countries.”

Lord Ahmad said that 32 countries will come together as the media freedom coalition, and commit to lobby on individual cases, as well as wider abuses against the media.

A panel discussion at the General Assembly was chaired by UK Special Envoy on Media Freedom, Amal Clooney, with contributions from the Prime Minister of Sudan, HE Mr Abdalla Hamdok, UNESCO Director-General, Mme Audrey Azoulay, representing HE the UN Secretary General, and Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian.

Ms Clooney highlighted how the work of the independent high level panel of legal experts on media freedom will support Governments with specialist advice and recommendations for legal and other mechanisms that protect and encourage the functioning of a free media and prevent and reverse abuses or violations of media freedom.

The meeting marked the formal launch of the media freedom coalition, with 32 Governments announcing that they will be members. They have each signed the global pledge on media freedom that the UK and Canada opened for signature at the conference. Signatories take on a commitment to take action to improve media freedom and the safety of journalists at home and abroad.

Countries who have so far signed:

  • UK
  • Canada
  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • North Macedonia
  • Latvia
  • Greece
  • Luxembourg
  • Lithuania
  • Iceland
  • Argentina
  • Seychelles
  • Uruguay
  • Kosovo
  • Lebanon
  • France
  • Montenegro
  • Finland
  • Czech Republic
  • Serbia
  • Maldives
  • Costa Rica