Journalists: International Protection

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:05 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 5:05 pm, 9th January 2019

Bob Stewart never screws up his speech. He spoke exceptionally well.

I thank Mr Whittingdale for bringing the debate. I was shocked to read some of the stats that have been read out already. The Reporters Sans Frontières worldwide round-up of journalists killed, detained, held hostage or missing in 2018 is sad reading, with 80 journalists killed, 348 in prison and 60 held hostage. I represent Strangford in Northern Ireland. Right hon. and hon. Members will know that there was a campaign of murder and attacks on journalists during that terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland, with newspaper offices and delivery vans burned and offices blown up. That was all part of that 30-year conflict of terrorism and malicious murder.

These people are simply doing their job and reporting the news. While I have sometimes had difficulties with how some news is reported and sometimes struggle with what could be deemed as biased reporting, there is no doubt in my mind of the right of the reporter to present factual information. An impartial reporting mechanism, and not simply a propaganda machine, goes hand in hand with democracy.

The figures for journalists murdered across the world include 15 in Afghanistan, 11 in Syria, 9 in Mexico, 8 in Yemen, 6 in the United States and 6 in India. Some 31% were killed on the job, while 48 were premeditated murders. Many of those figures worry us greatly. Over the past 10 years, 702 professional journalists alone have been killed around the world. That trend is increasing even in Europe, the region that respects press freedom the most but that has experienced the sharpest decline in the Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

It is clear that freedom in any nation should include freedom of the press. That freedom must be protected, and protection is an active thing. It is not tutting when something goes wrong, but actively declaring, and using diplomatic pressure to assert, that freedom of the press is essential. That is something that I and the House believe in. Hopefully this debate will make things better for journalists across the world.