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Secretary of State responds to Society concerns

Posted on: April 17, 2019 by Mariella Brown

The Secretary of State for the Media, Jeremy Wright, has responded to the Society of Editors’ concerns regarding the protection of press freedom in the UK.

Mr Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has given assurances that the government’s proposed online harms bill will not affect freedom of speech nor the free press.

The Society had written to the Secretary of State outlining its concerns that the new laws designed to combat support for terrorism, child abuse, and other harmful matters on the internet would also impinge on press freedom, particularly in the area of what would be considered fake news. However, in his letter to the Society of Editors, the Secretary of State assured its members that the new bill was not intended to undermine a free press nor restrict freedom of speech.  

“This Government absolutely upholds the core principle of freedom of expression, recognising the invaluable role a free press plays in our cultural and democratic life. I hope this letter reassures you of our intentions, and that we are seeking to build sufficient safeguards into our proposals to protect these freedoms,” wrote the Secretary of State.

Executive Director of the Society of Editors Ian Murray welcomed the Secretary of State’s assurances over press freedom and freedom of expression, and his offer to work with the Society during consultations over the new bill.

Murray responded: “it is heartening to see the government underscores the support for the free press, but we must always be ever vigilant of the laws of unintended consequences and what some politicians or a future government may do to use online harms legislation to restrict freedom of speech.”

Read the full Letter from Secretary of State here.

Read the Society’s initial response to Online Harms.

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