Alarming legislative proposals pose “worrying threat” to press freedom, says SoE President

Posted on: January 17, 2023 by Claire Meadows

Alarming legislative proposals, such as that contained within the National Security Bill, are posing a “worrying threat” to press freedom, the Society of Editors President has warned.

Speaking to the i newspaper for an article on restrictions to press freedom, ‘The battle for free speech: What reporters can tell you, and what they can’t reveal’, Kamal Ahmed, President of the Society said that, in recent years, government legislation was combining with restrictions on open justice and government “to create a hostile environment for freedom of expression and the public’s right to know” and that matters of “significant public interest” risked going unreported as a result.

Ahmed said: “The last few years have seen a number of new and worrying threats to press freedom. From alarming legislative proposals that threaten to silence whistle-blowers and stifle investigations to a rise in abusive litigation and restrictions on open justice and open government – all have combined to create a hostile environment for freedom of expression and the public’s right to know.

“A free press remains essential to any healthy democracy and journalists must be free from unnecessary restrictions. Without press freedom, matters of significant public interest will go unreported and those that wish to evade scrutiny will be free to do so. Our job, as it has been for centuries, is to be the eyes and ears of the public.”

Ahmed’s comments in the i follow the publication this week of a book by renowned barrister Geoffrey Robertson KC entitled ‘Lawfare: How Russians, the Rich and the Government Try to Prevent Free Speech and How to Stop Them’. In the book, Robertson warns that secrecy is increasing and that government proposals to enhance free speech, such as that contained within what he calls “squalid” and “dishonest” Bill of Rights legislation, would do “exactly the opposite of what it pretends to do”.