Journalistic Rights and Freedoms

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

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

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

This year, the UK is spearheading a global campaign on media freedoms, and our diplomatic missions around the world have stepped up their activity accordingly. We have announced the appointment of Special Envoy Amal Clooney, establishing a high-level panel to drive legislative reform throughout the world, and we will announce further practical steps with wide international support at next month’s UK and Canada-led conference.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s answer, but at least 94 journalists were killed in the course of their duties last year. Will he and his ministerial colleagues undertake, on every occasion when they travel overseas or meet foreign Heads of State, to raise this issue, which is so vital if we are to get real news, not fake news?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As it happens, at the weekend I was in Tehran, and I made the points that he has made to my interlocutors. It is absolutely vital that journalists are able to do their work unhindered and certainly unthreatened, and the secret to peace and prosperity across our world—our troubled world—today is the ability to have the transparency that is the stock in trade of journalists.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Independent, Ilford South

Will the Minister look at the situation of journalists in Turkey, and in that context, will he welcome the victory of the opposition in Istanbul as a sign that at least in Turkey there are people fighting against the authoritarianism of President Erdoğan?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

Istanbul has very much been in the spotlight over the past few days, and I think we probably welcome the political vibrancy that we have seen in Turkey over the past few days. Of course, Turkey is a very dangerous place for journalists right now, and the hon. Gentleman is right to underscore the importance of Turkey in particular engaging with this process. I very much hope that Turkey is represented at the conference in London next month.

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

We all welcome the Foreign Secretary’s decision to host a ministerial summit on media freedom next month. However, can the Minister of State explain why it took an outcry from Britain’s National Union of Journalists even to get an invitation to the summit and why, even though journalists have now been invited, they are still not being allowed to speak? Will he also say what involvement the International Federation of Journalists has had?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I am absolutely delighted that journalists, and of course their representative bodies, will be represented at this conference. I am very keen for them to suggest what part they might play in the proceedings, and I am looking forward to hearing from them. This is meant to be Britain being a window to the world on the importance that we assign to journalistic freedom and a free press. Let us see what they have to say.