Dominic Raab, the Secretary of State for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, has said the UK remains committed to Media Freedom and to championing democracy and human rights around the world during the current Covid-19 crisis.
His assurances came after the Society of Editors (SoE) wrote to the Foreign Secretary urging him to address the need for governments worldwide to work with the media to tackle Covid-19.
Mr Raab said a free media has a ‘vital role’ in the international coronavirus response. He elaborated on a number of partners the UK government works with diplomatically to raise concerns about media freedom worldwide and fund projects for the media in countries ‘where it would otherwise be unavailable’.
The Foreign Secretary takes responsibility for the Global Campaign for Media Freedom, launched in July 2019, with human rights lawyer Amal Clooney acting as special envoy for media freedom.
The Foreign Office is said to be monitoring the cases of concern in relation to journalists at risk of persecution.
The letter continued: “Indeed, the UK remains committed to Media Freedom and to championing democracy and human rights around the world during the current Covid-19 crisis. Independent media is essential to functioning societies, and free media has a vital role to play in the international Covid-19 response.
“We are continuing to monitor cases of concern around the world, and we are working with international partners on how best to continue to support media freedom given the challenges and restrictions caused by Covid-19.”
Mr Raab also drew on the work of the High Level Legal Panel of Experts on their report on the use of sanctions to protect journalists, and said in the coming months the Panel will continue to propose initiatives that can be taken by governments ‘to promote and protect a vibrant free press, and report on means of raising the cost to those who target journalists for their work.’
The Secretary of State also responded to the death of journalist Christopher Allen who was killed in South Sudan in August 2017, and said the government will ‘continue to work closely with our US counterparts to press the South Sudanese authorities for an investigation’. Allen’s cousin the filmmaker Jeremy Bliss spoke of the continued threats to journalists worldwide at the Society’s annual conference in November of last year.
The letter to the SoE from the Secretary of State can be read in full here.
The SoE’s calls for matters of international media freedom can be read here:
- 1 April 2020: Response to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s 2019 report on “Media freedom is under attack”: The FCO’s defence of an endangered liberty”
- March 24, 2020: Governments worldwide must work with the media to tackle Covid-19, urges Society
- 14 February 2020: Society backs targeted sanctions to protect journalists