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Press Freedom Debate Announced for Society’s Anniversary Conference

Posted on: September 10, 2019 by Mariella Brown

The state of press freedom in the UK will be debated at the Society of Editors’ Annual Conference on November 12.

The panel, entitled Press Freedom: Old and Emerging Threats, draws some big names from across the industry to impart their perspective on the future of a free press. It will be chaired by Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of the international freedom of expression organisation Index on Censorship.

Included in the debate will be the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, who takes overall charge for the regulation of the UK’s data protection and information rights.

Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP will also be sitting on the panel and is the Chairman of the All Party Group for Media Freedom.

Martin Breen is editor of Northern Ireland’s largest newspaper, Sunday Life. Under his editorship, investigations have exposed criminal and terrorist elements in Northern Ireland, some of which have led to his reporters facing terrorist threats as a result of their work.

John Battle, ITN’s Head of Compliance, will also join the panel. He brings his expertise from advising editorial teams on legal issues such as libel and data protection, including leading the advice for Channel 4 News’ recent Cambridge Analytica investigation.

Ian Murray, the Society of Editors’ executive director said: “There are always threats to media freedom here in the UK, but it seems that at the present time they are legion.

From proposed changes from the Information Commissioner’s Office, to the Online Harms white paper, the laws of unintended consequences appear to be in play. And amid the current political turmoil, what are the dangers on the horizon should we face a change of government in the coming months? 

The panel we have brought together to debate this issue is crucial to help the industry understand the realities of the media freedom landscape at this time.”

This year, to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Society, a Gala Dinner will be held at Stationers’ Hall in London. At the celebrations, former BBC Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie will deliver a speech and receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for her life-long commitment to journalism.

Also speaking at the conference will be national newspaper editors James Harding (Tortoise), Ted Verity (The Mail on Sunday), Alison Phillips (Daily Mirror) and Chris Evans (The Telegraph).

A panel examining the survival of investigative journalism has also been announced with Claire Newell (Daily Telegraph), Paul Henderson (Daily Mirror), Jane Bradley (BuzzFeed) and Tom Bristow (Archant Investigations Unit).

The programme as it stands is available on the Society’s website. Early bird booking ends on 19 September – do book now to avoid missing out.

Find out more about our speakers below:

Jodie Ginsberg

Jodie Ginsberg is chief executive of global freedom of expression organisation, Index on Censorship. Index publishes work by censored writers and artists and campaigns against censorship worldwide.

Prior to joining Index, Jodie worked as a foreign correspondent and business journalist and was UK Bureau Chief for Reuters news agency.

She sits on the council of global free expression network IFEX and the board of the Trust for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and is a regular commentator in international media on freedom of expression issues.

Elizabeth Denham

Elizabeth Denham became the UK’s Information Commissioner in 2016. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s regulator for data protection and information rights. It enforces the law, both civil and criminal, against organisations that have violated data protection rules. The ICO provides guidance on and regulates key laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Data Protection Act 2018, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Elizabeth brings an international dimension to the role with her previous work as Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia and Canada and Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Elizabeth was appointed chair of the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) in 2018 which seeks to provide international leadership in data protection and privacy as the premier global forum for data protection authorities.

In the 2019 New Year’s Honours list Elizabeth was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to protecting information. She was also named as the most influential person in data driven business in the 2018 DataIQ 100 list.

The Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP

John Whittingdale has been Member of Parliament for Maldon in Essex since 1992. Prior to his election, he served as Political Secretary to Margaret Thatcher from 1988 until in 1992.

In 2001 John was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and later Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. In July 2005 he was elected Chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, a position that he held for 10 years.

Following the 2015 General Election, John was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and became a member of the Privy Council. Following David Cameron’s resignation, he became a member of the new Select Committee on Exiting the European Union and in 2017 was elected Vice Chairman of the Committee.

John is Chairman of the British Group of the Inter Parliamentary Union and a full member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. He is also Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Lithuania and Chairman of the All Party Writers Group and the All Party Group for Media Freedom.

Martin Breen

Martin Breen has been editor of Sunday Life newspaper in Belfast since 2009. Investigations by the paper have exposed numerous criminal and terrorist elements in Northern Ireland which has led to reporters facing several terrorist threats due to their work. A board member of the Society of Editors, he also sits on the Independent News and Media executive team which manages the company’s print and digital interests in Northern Ireland including the Belfast Telegraph. The 42-year-old is also an industry adviser for the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) for their courses in the region.

John Battle

John Battle is Head of Compliance at ITN, the television production company that produces ITV News, Channel 4 News and 5 News.  ITN Productions also produces documentaries/ current affairs programmes for domestic and international broadcasters.  His role entails advising editorial teams on legal and regulatory issues such as libel, contempt of court, copyright, data protection, privacy and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.  Recently he led the legal advice on Channel 4 News’ Cambridge Analytica/Facebook investigation. 

John initially worked as a criminal law barrister before working as an in-house lawyer for two major newspaper groups, Associated Newspapers and News UK.  He is the chair of the Media Lawyers Association and has been a key industry figure in lobbying for greater openness in the courts – including the CPS Media Protocol and filming courts and inquiries.   John also teaches in-house the NCTJ Court Reporting and Media Law courses.

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