Society welcomes new government plans to promote media freedom

Posted on: October 30, 2023 by Claire Meadows


New plans unveiled today by the government to promote media freedom and protect journalists have been welcomed by the Society of Editors.

Announced as part of Journalism Matters week, the new protections will see enhanced training for police officers on the rights of journalists to report from protests, a new online portal for journalists to report abuse as well as a new industry taskforce on keeping staff safe. The protections will build on the existing National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists launched in 2021.

Responding to the announcement, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors, said: “At a time when accurate and verifiable news and information remains critical to the public’s understanding of world affairs, it is devastating that abuse and harassment of journalists remains so commonplace.

“The renewed action plan contains additional commitments aimed at prioritising journalists’ safety including broader police and industry engagement and a taskforce dedicated to exploring non-legislative means of combating SLAPPs.

“These measures should ensure that awareness-raising and regulation work hand-in-hand with legislation in this area. We look forward to working together to help create a safe and free environment for journalists to report on behalf of the public.” 

Journalists from across the UK will also gather at 10 Downing Street today for a special reception with the Culture Secretary to celebrate their contribution to UK democracy. The event has been organised to mark the start of Journalism Matters Week, the News Media Association’s annual campaign recognising the important role journalism plays in a democratic society.

As part of the refreshed action plan, police officers will be given the opportunity to undertake Public Order training to increase understanding of how journalists can report and observe protests. In addition, a new working group is being created for publishers and broadcasters to share learnings and best practices for safeguarding editorial staff.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Today we celebrate the vital work of our world-class journalists who keep our democracy alive through their investigations and ruthless scrutiny of the powerful.

“At a time when reporters are losing their lives while showing the world what is happening in the Middle East and Ukraine, and where misinformation about the conflicts is rife on social media, the importance of rigorous, fact-checked journalism has never been more apparent.

“As Culture Secretary I want to protect and enhance the freedom of our press. No journalist should be prevented from doing their job due to fear of violence, abuse or harassment. Our revamped national action plan will strengthen efforts to protect journalists working in the UK from harm, enhancing their freedom to hold the powerful to account without fear of abuse or harassment.”