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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what diplomatic steps his Department is taking to support (a) human rights defenders and (b) overseas journalists during the covid-19 pandemic.
The UK published the document 'UK Support for Human Rights Defenders' in July 2019, which sets out our ongoing dedication to supporting and protecting human rights defenders worldwide. The UK will continue to give strong support to human rights defenders worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic to enable them to carry out their work safely and without fear, and we regularly assess how we can enhance our ability to make a positive difference. Our diplomatic network regularly engages with Non-Governmental Organisations representatives and human rights defenders to address the challenges which they face and how the UK can help overcome them. Media freedom is vital to open societies and journalists must be able to investigate and report without undue interference. We must oppose all attempts by any state to use the pandemic to restrict press freedom, silence debate, abuse journalists, or spread misinformation. When he addressed the Alliance for Multilateralism on 16 April, the Minister of State responsible for Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon highlighted the UK's commitment to human rights and media freedom, particularly during the crisis. To mark World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), the Foreign Secretary issued a statement with his German, French and Dutch colleagues, calling on governments to defend media freedom, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK also signed a statement issued by the Media Freedom Coalition on WPFD and supported a Dutch social media campaign publicly highlighting cases of journalists who have been killed or imprisoned.