On the eve of its annual conference, the Society of Editors has welcomed news that the UK is to stage an international conference on media freedom.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, writing in the Evening Standard, announced he would be hosting the conference in Britain in 2019.
The Foreign Secretary underscored the UK’s vital role in supporting freedom of the media worldwide and added that defending media freedoms was a key plank of British foreign policy.
Mr Hunt’s announcement came as Reporters Without Borders reported that 65 journalists and media workers had been killed worldwide in 2017.
Mr Hunt’s words were welcomed by the Society of Editor’s executive director Ian Murray who said that it was extremely gratifying that media freedoms were seen as an essential part of a free and democratic society.
“It is important that the UK remains a beacon of freedom of expression and the public’s right to know around the world with a free media at the heart of that message.
“We tend to think of press freedoms as internal, domestic matters, but Britain has a vital global role to play in setting an example for those regimes that restrict the freedoms and basic human rights of their peoples and usually start by attacking and removing independent voices in their societies.
“It is also true, that by acknowledging the UK’s role in this way Mr Hunt is surely signalling that he and the government value the role of the free press here in the UK in holding the powerful to account.
Writing in the Evening Standard, Mr Hunt said: I write as a politician and, like many in my profession, I do not always enjoy reading what the newspapers say about me. The media sometimes make mistakes and journalists, being human, are not beyond hyperbole and excess. But none of us would wish to live in a country where newspapers are muzzled or controlled.
“A media willing and able to investigate wrongdoing, expose failures and criticise the mighty, provides one of the strongest defences against corruption and arbitrary state power.”
Sixty-five journalists and media workers were killed worldwide in 2017, according to annual figures published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Among them were 50 professional reporters, the lowest toll in 14 years. However, the downward trend is due at least in part to journalists giving up working in the world’s deadliest spots.
They included Javier Valdez, one of the most prominent chroniclers of Mexico’s deadly drug war, whose murder in May sparked a public outcry.
The 50-year-old AFP contributor was shot dead in broad daylight in the street in the violent northwestern state of Sinaloa.
The overall number of professional reporters slain worldwide, however, fell to its lowest number in 14 years, RSF said.
Of the 65 killed, the report said 39 were murdered, while the rest died in the line of duty collateral victims of deadly circumstances likes air strikes or suicide bombings.
The group said that the drop in the death rate may be because journalists were now being better trained and protected for war zones.
Turkey is the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists, the figures show, with 42 reporters and one media worker behind bars.
The Society of Editors holds its annual conference in Manchester on November 4/5 with the theme: The Trust Factor- And How To Fund It. The society’s annual lecture will be given by Paul Dacre, who stood down as Editor of the Daily Mail this year, with keynote speeches by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright, Editor in Chief of Guardian News & Media Kath Viner and Lloyd Embley, Editor in Chief of Reach Plc – owners of The Mirror newspapers and Daily Express and Daily Star.
More information: societyofeditors.org
Read Jeremy Hunt’s full article in The Evening Standard by visting: www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/britain-champions-free-speech-so-we-re-leading-the-war-on-fake-news-a3977771.html