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16 July 2020

NMA Welcomes New Committee To Protect Journalists

The News Media Association has welcomed moves by Government to tackle the rise in instances of journalists being abused and vilified while carrying out their work. 

Responding to the first meeting of the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists being held this week, the NMA said: "With cases of abuse against the media increasing, it is critical that journalists can continue to safely carry out their essential roles in society and continue to hold the powerful to account.

“We are pleased that the Government is committed to defending a free and independent press in the UK and we look forward to working more closely with the Committee.”

The first meeting of the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists took place on Monday this week, co-chaired by Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale and Minister for Safeguarding Victoria Atkins.

The Committee will meet twice a year and is designed to ensure that journalists can operate without fear, violence, or abuse. The Committee is made up of representatives from Government, policing, prosecution services and the civil service, as well as representatives of the press including the News Media Association.

Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale said: “The UK has been at the forefront of the global campaign for media freedom, but it is also essential that we protect the safety of journalists at home.

“The rise in misinformation during the pandemic has highlighted once again the valuable role played by journalists working for reputable news organisations who produce accurate and balanced high-quality journalism. We must do all we can to ensure that they can carry this out free from threats and intimidation.”

The Committee was established last year at the Global Conference on Media Freedom, where the UK government urged attending countries to do more to safeguard media freedom and the safety of journalists.

Frequent online abuse and violence against journalists across the UK has demonstrated that journalists are not always safe when carrying out their job.

Helen Dalby, editor-in-chief of Reach Plc’s North East titles, has called upon readers to help support journalists, by reporting abusive comments on their website and social media, after stressing that online abuse and threats against journalists is increasing.

Surrey Live journalist Matt Strudwick has warned of the impact on mental health that online abuse can cause: “I, and our reporters, see it on a daily basis on social media. Abusive and sickening comments, either directed at them or at the people in the articles we write. We welcome feedback and criticism where it’s warranted, but there is a line that should not be crossed.”

The Committee’s first action will be to co-ordinate a National Action Plan so that “the safety of journalists can be ensured, and they can be protected from physical harm and threats of violence”.