Government efforts to support freedom of expression needed closer to home

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has welcomed the Foreign Office decision to set up a £1 million pound fund to support freedom of expression projects globally.

But the world’s longest standing professional association of journalists says such help is also needed closer to home.

CIoJ President Mark Croucher said: “We applaud this initiative particularly in the wake of the recent appalling murders of journalists in Malta and Mexico.

“However, the position of journalists in Britain is growing more vulnerable and journalistic freedom of expression needs much more protection from our own government.”

He said the UK has been sinking down the ranking of media freedom published by the NGO Journalists Without Borders.

The FCO initiative is making money available to ‘lobby governments to change laws that put pressure on journalists, such as anti-defamation laws.’

Mr Croucher said the £3 million funding of the Press Recognition Panel under post Leveson Inquiry Press Royal Charter combined with Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 are direct threats to press freedom in the UK and must be scrapped.

He added: “When it comes to defamation law, we have one of the most draconian in the Western world where the burden of proof is on media defendants and the legal costs regime leaves most publishers wary of running stories they can’t afford to defend in the courts.”

He said: “The Metropolitan Police inquiry, Operation Elveden, and a range of new laws have also devastated the protection of journalists’ sources.”

The Institute is also deeply concerned that neither the Government nor Parliament are doing enough to halt the growing closure of regional and local newspapers through the exponential and predatory acquisition of their advertising by online social media platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Foreign Office Free Speech funding announcement: See: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-announces-free-speech-funding

2017 World Press Freedom Index from RSF – Reporters sans frontières
Britain now ranked 40 out of 180 with Reporters Without Borders saying this is ‘A worrying trend,’ and the UK state having a ‘heavy-handed approach towards the press.’

See:
https://rsf.org/en/ranking
https://rsf.org/en/united-kingdom

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