Report It campaign encourages threatened journalists to speak out

Report It campaign encourages threatened journalists to speak out

By Democrat reporter

A new campaign by Media Freedom Rapid Response has been set up to track attacks on press freedom in Europe.

One of the first reports, which the Society of Editors, the Scottish Government and the SNP have already received is one from The Dumbarton Democrat.

That was done after Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council, sent out an e-mail which said:

This is a man whom Council officers have had to ban from the press benches in Council.  Not only does he fail to follow basic press codes of conduct and refuses to sign up to the independent press regulator that every other journalist signs up with, but his string of threatening behaviour towards members of the public and Council staff is unacceptable.   I have personally witnessed him behaving in a threatening manner to an elderly female member of the public, chasing her to her car shouting aggressive questions at her.   I have also witnessed him being verbally and physically abusive to a female member of Council staff (poking his finger into her shoulder while shouting and swearing at her in the middle of the Council chamber) and being verbally abusive to various other staff members and Councillors.  There are also numerous accounts from other people that are plausible and fit with the aggressive, misogynistic, arrogant persona I have seen for myself. 

Democrat editor Bill Heaney is adamant that these remarks are completely untrue and amount to defamation, which is actionable in law.

Every threat – from physical attacks and arrests to smear campaigns and attempts to censor journalistic output – will be reported to the Mapping Media Freedom platform (MMF) which will help build a clearer understanding of the threats to press freedom.

Journalists have been advised that by entering this information to the platform, Media Freedom Rapid Response can offer direct support to the media worker(s) affected.

The platform has already seen 241 alerts from 30 countries documented since the start of 2020. Alerts submitted in the UK include the online harassment and threats to a BBC disinformation reporter and the blockading of newspaper print works by climate change activists earlier this month.

Campaign partner the International Press Institute (IPI) said that it is wrong that violations, abuses and aggression have become so frequent against journalists. The press freedom body urged that this behaviour “should not be normalised or accepted as the price of being a journalist”.

In a statement, IPI said: “To protect press and media freedom, we need an accurate picture of the forces that threaten it. To do this, we must collect and verify as much information as possible. That is why the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), of which IPI is a partner, has launched the ‘Report It’ campaign to create awareness and encourage everyone to play a role in documenting and reporting the many violations committed against journalists and media workers across Europe.

“Threats and violations against media actors are not right and they should not be tolerated. Instead, they should be reported.”

Threats may include: physical attacks that require hospital treatment, arrests and detention, vexatious legal actions, harassment and smear campaigns, to attempts to censor journalistic output, ban journalists from government events or bring forward laws restricting media freedom.

The Europe-wide campaign follows this summer’s launch of the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, the new UK government-backed initiative aimed at ensuring the safety of journalists.

Joined by the Society of Editors on its panel, the committee’s first objective is to develop a National Action Plan which sets out a framework through which the safety of journalists can be ensured and they can be protected from physical harm and threats of violence.

West Dunbartonshire Council have been informed of Mr Heaney’s position but refuse to communicate with him.

One comment

  1. The Great Leader Jon Ha Thon suffers I suspect of delusional episodes.

    Imagining editors under the beds, his fear of journalists most probably makes him see things that do not exist save for in his own mind. Aversion therapy can help but long days and nights in the bunker militate against such therapy.

    More to be pitied than criticised, it is not difficult to suspect that the Great Leader’s aspirations to replace a Jackie are but another example of delusional behaviour.

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