Saturday, July 13, 2024
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New Plans to Promote Media Freedom and Protect Journalists

by Freddy Evans
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In Journalism Matters Week, new plans are being set out to boost protections for reporters against rising threats and abuse.

  • Journalists who have faced abuse and those who have broken powerful stories invited to a celebration of journalism reception at No 10 as part of Journalism Matters Week
  • New plans to protect journalists from threats and abuse, including enhanced training for police officers and a new industry taskforce on keeping staff safe
  • The National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists has seen journalist safety officers rolled out in 22 police forces and extensive guidance to help reporters tackle online abuse

Journalists from across the UK will gather at 10 Downing Street today for a special reception with the Culture Secretary to celebrate their contribution to UK democracy, as new plans are set out to boost protections for reporters against rising threats and abuse.

Journalists from all over the UK dedicated to exposing wrongdoing and holding power to account – as well as some who have faced abuse as a result of their reporting – have been invited to the event which marks the start of Journalism Matters Week, the News Media Association’s annual campaign recognising the important role journalism plays in a democratic society. Editors and senior leaders from the UK’s major publishers, broadcasters and industry bodies will also be in attendance.

Journalists are increasingly suffering violence and intimidation while going about their work. To tackle this problem, the Culture Secretary is launching a refreshed National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists, introducing new measures to protect journalists from harm and building on previous pledges to create a safe environment for them to operate.

The enhanced plan will see the creation of a new online tool where journalists can report abuse and help build greater understanding of safety issues affecting them.

New opportunities will be provided for police officers 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.

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.” 

The National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists aims to increase understanding of the abuse faced by some journalists, bolster the criminal justice response to crimes against journalists and support journalists and their employers to build resources to protect personal safety. It also sets out to help online platforms tackle wider online abuse and improve public recognition of the value of journalists to society. 

Since the publication of the first Action Plan in 2021, significant progress has been achieved, including:

  • The appointment of a Journalist Safety Officer at 22 police forces across the UK, including Police Scotland and Police Service Northern Ireland.
  • New guidance to combat online harassment and abuse, published by the Media Lawyers Association.
  • An online safety toolkit which covers a variety of issues such as physical and digital safety, mental health, as well as signposting a number of other helpful resources, launched by the National Union of Journalists and the Society of Editors.
  • A free e-learning course created by the National Council for the Training of Journalists on journalism safety and resilience as part of its Journalism Skills Academy 

The plan established collaborative working relationships with key industry partners like the National Council for Training of Journalists, the Media Lawyers Association, Meta and X, delivering targeted action to protect journalists safety online and in the field. 

It follows the launch of a new dedicated taskforce in September to tackle Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), increasingly used by wealthy individuals to intimidate or silence journalists from reporting information in the public interest. 

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

The safety of journalists is the NUJ’s top priority, which is why the work of the UK’s National Committee for the Safety of Journalists’ and its action plan is so important. To follow on from our successful mobile safety toolkit, we will be creating a press safety tracker so journalists will be able to report incidents ranging from online abuse, problems during demonstrations caused by protestors or the police, and sexual harassment to the wider challenges posed by Slapps and other legal threats designed to stymie and interfere with journalistic reporting and investigations.

Attacks on journalists are deployed to silence and intimidate those who work to uphold the public’s right to know. NUJ members have shared horrific experiences of being attacked, abused and threatened – on and offline – simply for doing their job. The action plan is a central part of stamping out such behaviour and ensuring that journalists can go about their vital work safely and free from interference.

Source : Gov.Uk

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