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Lords praise ‘vital’ work of journalists amid covid-19 coverage

Posted on: March 27, 2020 by Claire Meadows

Members of the House of Lords have praised the ‘vital’ and ‘trusted’ work of UK journalists covering the covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking as part of a Lords debate on public interest reporting this week, Baroness Barran, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said that journalists covering the crisis were to be praised for providing a critical source of information for their communities.

She said: “I absolutely echo [the] sentiments about the importance of journalists and those involved in public service broadcasting at the moment; not only are they a trusted source of facts, but they will have a role to play in rallying communities and getting the message across about how we can keep ourselves and our families safe, and protect our NHS. Undoubtedly, they have a critical role.”

Barron’s sentiments were echoed by Lord Clement-Jones who paid tribute to coverage produced under trying circumstances.

He said:  I pay tribute to all the journalists, photographers and, in particular, camera staff in our 24-hour news service, who are providing a vital, trusted news source in an incredibly fast-moving situation.”

Baroness Barran assured those present that the government considered the media to be performing a critical role in the battle against covid-19 and that, if further restrictions on movement were introduced, it was essential that journalists were able to continue working. She also took the opportunity to confirm that discussions were ongoing in respect of support for freelance journalists with the Minister for Media and Data, John Whittingdale MP, in discussions with media representatives to ensure that journalists are able to maintain their function.

She said: “My Lords, the Government are clear that journalists are critical to providing essential information about coronavirus to the public and that it is imperative that they are able to continue doing so. We are working with the industry and others to ensure that journalists are able to continue performing their vital function at this time.

“I hope my honourable friend the Minister for Media and Data has the NUJ on speed dial, but I will check; he is certainly actively talking to broadcasters, the Society of Editors and others regularly. As the noble Lord rightly raised, work is going on in relation to the position of the self-employed.”