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SoE calls on government to uphold principles in advance of World Press Freedom Day

Posted on: May 1, 2020 by Mariella Brown

The Society of Editors (SoE) has called on the government to continue to commit to transparency and supporting media freedoms in the UK to act as an example to others.

As we prepare to mark World Press Freedom Day on Sunday (May 3), the SoE says that it has never been more important to uphold and strengthen commitment to the basic principles that underpin our democracy.

Society of Editors’ executive director Ian Murray commented that as the world faces the current Covid-19 crisis the importance of a free media has never appeared so clear.

“World Press Freedom Day this weekend remind us that the freedoms we take for granted in a liberal democracy stand on the people’s right to know what is being done in their name and that can only be assured through a free press.

“Even here in the UK those freedoms are always under attack and we should remain ever-vigilant and ensure that the example set in this country acts as a beacon for those living without such protections.

“The Covid-19 emergency has seen a raft of measures taken in countries across the globe to curb media freedoms just at a time when peoples more than ever need news and information they can trust. 

“We have seen regimes in South Africa, Hungary, Russia and other countries take advantage of the current crisis to clampdown on media freedoms to stifle voices of dissent. It is always at these times, when the cause of ‘the common good’ can be used as a smokescreen that those who wish to take away liberties strike. An ever-vigilant, watchful media is the best if not the only true defence people can have against such tyrannies and must be protected.”

The SoE has welcomed those actions taken by the government to promise transparency and support the media, including recognising journalists as essential workers in the battle against Covid-19. But the Society says the media must not relax its efforts to hold those in authority to account and provide trusted, fact-based information as the crisis unfolds.

“Getting the balance right between holding those to account and maintaining the confidence of the public in the media to act in the common good is always difficult but it is worth the huge efforts being taken by the mainstream media at this time,” added Murray.

A message from Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, to mark the occasion of World Press Freedom Day can be seen here