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John Whittingdale MP chairs Parliamentary Media Freedom Seminar

Posted on: September 13, 2019 by Ellen Bramley

The commitment to the fight for media freedom continued in spite of the proroguing of Parliament this week.

The International Parliamentary Seminar on Media Freedom was held from 9 – 11 September to convene MPs and media freedom leaders from around the world.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group, chaired by Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, took place in Portcullis House at the Palace of Westminster in London.

The British Group of Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU) stated the aims of the Seminar were:

“To bring together parliamentarians from a wide array of countries to collaborate with other key stakeholders and explore the parliamentary dimension of media protection. It allowed for follow-up to the key outcomes from the FCO conference in July and provided an opportunity to discuss parliament-driven solutions to issues affecting journalists and the media industry.”

Speakers over the three-day period included Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State Commonwealth; Alistair King-Smith, the FCO’s Co-ordinator for the July Global Media Freedom Campaign and Canadian Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne.

Also present from the news industry was Lord Black of Brentwood, Deputy Chairman of the Telegraph Media Group; Belinda Goldsmith, Editor-in-Chief of Thomson Reuters and Press Award-winning war photographer, Paul Conroy.

A follow-up to the FCO Conference was a topic for the first session of the Group. Further sessions debated the use of domestic legislation to protect journalists, building trust in the media, and examining the international frameworks in place for protecting media freedom. 

The Seminar followed efforts by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s conference in July, initiated by the former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP.

The “Media freedom is under attack” report was subsequently issued by the FCO on Monday 9 September. The report follows the FCO’s efforts in July to demonstrate their commitment to worldwide media freedom, stating in its first recommendation: “The FCO must now demonstrate the impact, and sustainability, of its policies and initiatives.”

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee (FASC) has also been attentive to the key outcomes of the FCO conference.

Despite commending the intentions of the campaign, the FASC has expressed concern over the sustainability of the initiatives outlined by the FCO at their conference in July.

This week they have created a ten-point report which advises the FCO on how to strengthen its campaign.

Advice to the FCO as outlined in the report includes a greater focus on making and strengthening laws which hold to account those that persecute the media; support training for both law-enforcement organisations and journalists so they are confident of their rights and responsibilities. It further considers measures to address the financial weakness and vulnerability of media organisations globally.

The report in full may be read via this link.

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