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SoE Condemns Reported Threats of Violence

25 September 2017


The Society of Editors has spoken out to condemn the reported threats of violence towards the BBC’s political editor at the Labour Party Conference.

Following reports that Laura Kuenssberg has been provided with protection in the form of bodyguards at the party’s Brighton Conference this week, the Society has called on Labour to roundly condemn those who have issued threats.

“It is appalling that any journalist should face threats for going about their legal business anywhere in the world, but for it to happen here in the UK to such a high-profile figure is very concerning,” commented Society of Editors Deputy Executive Director Ian Murray.

“Ironically, the Society will be discussing threats made to journalists world-wide at its annual conference this year, but we did not expect to have to include actions so close to home during the debate.”

Various news outlets reported today that Ms Kuenssberg has been assigned bodyguards after becoming the target of abuse and aggression on-line and while covering Labour Party events.

In May last year an online petition called for the BBC to sack Ms Kuenssberg amid claims her reporting was anti-Labour.

And earlier this month the chairman of the BBC, Sir David Clementi, called on politicians to protect journalists from being jeered at during press conferences.

Ian Murray added: “We saw in the United States during the Presidential Election last year how political agitators were urged from the platform to attack journalists both verbally and physically. It is important that politicians here in the UK move quickly to inform their supporters that journalists, indeed anyone, should never be the subject of abuse.

“The Society is calling on the Labour leadership to speak from the platform during their conference to condemn threats of violence and verbal abuse from whatever quarter.

“While it is always acceptable to enter into debate over whether a media organisation, including the BBC, is upholding impartial standards, resorting to threats of violence is never acceptable.”

Attacks on press freedom worldwide including violence against journalists will be a pivotal topic of discussion at the upcoming Society of Editors ‘Fighting for real news’ conference in November.

The importance of press freedom and ongoing clampdowns on freedom of expression in Turkey and Hungary alongside violence used against journalists in Mexico will lead the discussion.

The session will hear from Yavuz Baydar, co-founder of P24, an independent media platform set up to   monitor the media sector in Turkey. Since the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, more than 150 journalists have been arrested and jailed with 180 news organisations shut down under laws passed by presidential decree. 

Also confirmed include Andras Muranyi, Former editor of Nepszabadsag newspaper in Hungary. The paper was closed down amid government pressure in October 2016. Tim MacGabhann, a freelance journalist formerly based in Mexico City will discuss press freedom in Mexico. Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship will chair the panel.

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