Journalists ‘fundamental to a true democracy’ says Culture Secretary

Posted on: November 8, 2023 by Claire Meadows

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has paid tribute to the courage of journalists worldwide and said that those working in war zones across the globe continue to “put their lives on the line for truth, freedom and democracy”.

Speaking at the Society of Editors Media Freedom Awards ceremony in London on Wednesday 8 November, the Minister responsible for the media, Lucy Frazer MP, said that in a world of social media, the mainstream media plays a critical role in combatting misinformation and disinformation and that “fact-checked and legal proofed” journalism, “allows truth to prevail”.

She said: “The work you do is fundamental to a true democracy. Through your reporting you are protecting the freedom of others. And in a world of social media, mainstream media plays a critical role.

“Your fact checked, legal proofed, thorough work, allows truth to prevail in an increasingly uncertain world. And what you do takes courage. Immense courage.”

As well as paying tribute to reporters who had lost their lives covering the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, the Secretary said that threats to journalists continue to come from many quarters including abuse on social media.

She said: “It’s not just you and your colleagues’ courage in the face of war that we pay tribute to but also your courage in dealing with issues which evoke hate and abuse on social media and those of you who put your voices on the line through comment pieces and analysis and those who continue to investigate when you face the full force of legal threats and pressure from the rich and powerful who try to keep their secrets secret.”

Reiterating the government’s commitment to promoting media freedom, the Secretary said that as well as updating the National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists, legislation such as the Media Bill and protections added to the Economic Crime Bill to tackle SLAPPs would also work to prioritise freedom of expression. 

She added: “I want you to know that we, in government, have your back. We understand what you are doing and why it is so important. It’s why we are protecting your physical safety with the launching of the updated National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists. We know that threats of violence and intimidation continue to rise – that is totally unacceptable.”

As well as plans in the Media Bill to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act as detailed in the King’s Speech this week, the Secretary said that the Bill would also promote the broadcasting industry.

She said: “The reforms in the Media Bill will bolster the UK’s TV, radio and press sectors and their exceptional news services, helping ensure viewers and listeners can continue to access high quality news and entertainment from our world-renowned public service broadcasters and radio stations.”

Photo: Lucy Young/Society of Editors