Journalists’ Rights and Freedoms

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Peter Heaton-Jones Peter Heaton-Jones Conservative, North Devon

What steps he is taking to protect the rights and freedoms of journalists throughout the world.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We are very concerned at the increasing number of attacks on journalists throughout the world, which is why next summer we plan to host a major conference in London on protecting media freedom.

Photo of Peter Heaton-Jones Peter Heaton-Jones Conservative, North Devon

I am grateful for that answer. This issue is close to my heart. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the UK Government will continue to press other countries to protect the freedoms, rights and securities of journalists, wherever they might be working and however inconvenient their reporting might be in those jurisdictions?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I am happy to confirm that. When I was in Burma, I talked to Aung San Suu Kyi about the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, because we have serious concerns about how due process was applied in their cases. We should remember in this House that 65 journalists were killed last year, and nine out of 10 times, no perpetrators were brought to justice.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

The Foreign Secretary knows that, out of Europe, we are more and more not only under the radar but on the periphery of the periphery. The plight of journalists and aid workers is very similar, in terms of the dangers they have to face doing good work. Will he speak to the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, about that?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I met David Miliband when I went to New York in September, and I think it would be a good idea to have those discussions. We have great concerns about the safety of aid workers, but our concern with respect to journalists is that this trend seems to be increasing, and it seems to be the new border between free and unfree countries.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Commons)

The BBC is still banned from Rwanda. Is the Secretary of State hopeful that that ban will be overturned by the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2020?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

My hon. Friend the Minister for Africa has just indicated to me that she is very hopeful that the ban will be overturned before then.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I listened carefully to what the Foreign Secretary said about Iran and journalists. With the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, describing the recent attacks in the state media and online in Iran on the BBC Persian service as “deplorable”, what more can we do to support those journalists who so bravely work in the BBC Persian service?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I, too, congratulate the Back Bencher of the year.

I raised this issue when I was in Tehran on 19 November. I pointed out to the Iranian Government that if they are unhappy with the coverage of the BBC Persian service, there is a very simple thing that they can do: allow their representatives to be interviewed on it and allow them to put across their point of view, at which they smiled and changed the subject. We will, however, continue to press on that point.