The UK’s failure to improve its rankings in the World Press Freedom Index for 2018 is disappointing the Society of Editors has said.
Addressing the announcement today that the UK remains 40th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the Society said that more needed to be done to address the climate of hostility towards the media in the UK.
Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society said: “It is unacceptable that in 2018 the UK, judged as a standards-setter for press freedom abroad, has cemented its reputation once again as one of the worst-ranked Western European countries in the Index.
“Not only has the UK dropped 18 places since the Index was launched in 2002, we are now witnessing more threats than ever to the public’s right to know. As cited by the RSF, threats to press freedom that remain in the Data Protection Bill, the Crime and Courts Act, a proposed new Espionage Act, and growing hostility to jounalists from politicians have all contributed to our abysmal placing.”
The publication of the Press Freedom Index comes on the same day that the Society co-signed a letter to The Times calling for parliament to reject any further restrictions on the press.
Murray added: “It is embarrassing that press freedom in the UK is considered en par with Trinidad and Tobago and Burkina Faso. Clearly, more needs to be done to ensure that both journalists have the necessary protections for legitimate reporting in the public interest and that an increase in anti-media rhetoric is called to account.”
The annual report, launched this morning at The Guardian in London, found that a continued heavy-handed approach towards the press – often in the name of national security – and a climate of hostility towards the media had resulted in the UK keeping its ranking from 2017.
The RSF highlighted a number of worrying moves against press freedom in the UK which including the alarming proposal by the Law Commission for an updated ‘Espionage Act’ and the implementation of the Investigatory Powers Act. The former could see journalists jailed for up to 14 years for obtaining leaked material while the latter Investigatory Powers Act is widely recognised as containing adequate safeguards for protecting journalistic material.
The report also criticised the amendments added to the Data Protection Bill by the House of Lords and the restricted access to campaign events ahead of the June 2017 general election. Extensive online abuse and threats towards journalists had also resulted in the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuennsberg being assigned bodyguards to cover the Labour Party conference in September 2017.
The Index can be found here.