VIRUS: PLEDGE TO RESTRICT PRESS FREEDOM

Newspaper editors welcome assurances on World Press Freedom

BY MARIELLA BROWN

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has pledged to oppose all attempts by any state to use the pandemic to restrict press freedom.

In a joint statement, Raab, pictured left, spoke out against the abuse of journalists, the silencing of debate and the spread of misinformation during Covid-19. The statement was released by the British, Dutch, French and German Foreign Ministers to celebrate the crucial role of journalists around the world on Press Freedom Day yesterday (May 3).

The assurances follow the SoE’s calls last week for the government to commit to transparency and support media freedoms in the UK to act as an example to others worldwide.

The statement, co-authored by the Foreign Secretary who leads the UK’s Global Campaign for Media Freedom, said:  “World Press Freedom Day is the opportunity to voice our support for journalists to continue providing the public with reliable, quality information – a task that has not only become more important but also much more difficult since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We must oppose all attempts by any state to use the pandemic to adopt restrictions on press freedom, silence debate, abuse journalists or spread misinformation. It is deeply concerning to see that across the world, publications are contracting and closing and journalists being made redundant because of falling revenues.

“Especially in these times, we depend on independent, fact-based and reliable journalism. A free press is crucial for a comprehensive response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Only by keeping the public informed can we prevent a further spread of COVID-19.”

The Foreign Ministers added they were supportive of the Media Freedom Coalition’s work, which also made a statement to celebrate the fundamental principles of media freedom.

The coalition, of which the UK is a member, called for all states to take action at a national level to ensure fundamental rights of journalists are upheld within their own borders, and advocate for these rights elsewhere in the world.

The coalition’s statement also pointed to the latest fund set up to protect journalists at risk:

“At this critical time, journalists and media professionals need our support and protection. We welcome the launch of the first call for proposals from UNESCO’s Global Media Defence Fund that was set up with contributions from our members.”

Last week, the SoE reported that the Council of Europe chief had called on governments to ensure they did not use the coronavirus crisis to silence journalists.

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