Press Freedom: Coronavirus

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 29th July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to protect global press freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

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 COVID-19 pandemic to restrict press freedom, silence debate, abuse journalists, or spread misinformation.

As the Minister of State responsible for Human Rights, I addressed the Alliance for Multilateralism on 16 April, and 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 on 2 May 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.

On 13 July at the inaugural meeting of the UK National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, I talked about the opportunity we had to lead internationally, developing an effective National Action Plan and thus setting an example for other countries in best practice.

We are determined not to allow the pandemic disrupt global efforts to protect media freedom. On 23 July, I called the Canadian High Commissioner to maintian momentum towards the next conference of the Media Freedom Coalition, which we hope will be held later this year. We remain committed to broadening this coalition of like-minded states to ensure that journalists are able to work freely without interference.

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