RSF welcomed some positive steps in the UK in 2018, including the statement in March by then-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock that Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 - which contains a threatening cost-shifting provision - would not be implemented. The Magnitsky amendment adopted in May as part of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act could also serve as a powerful tool in holding press freedom predators to account.
“Although there have been improvements in some areas, unfortunately part of the reason for the rise in the UK’s ranking is that the press freedom climate deteriorated so sharply in other countries. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard, and seek to be one of the best, not worst-performing countries in Western Europe. Too often steps taken in the name of national security trample press freedom, and too often legislation is adopted without adequate protection for journalists. Press freedom must be respected at the very core of domestic law, policies and practices, in line with the UK’s international human rights obligations”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.
RSF has called for a number of specific measures to improve the UK’s press freedom ranking, including formally repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, ceasing efforts to force a backdoor into encryption tools, implementing the Magnitsky Amendment without further delay, and lifting the ongoing threat of legal action against journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in Northern Ireland, who remain under police bail. RSF also calls for a more consistent approach to press freedom across all governmental bodies, including the Home Office, and for parliament to take a more proactive approach in ensuring that new draft legislation does not further erode press freedom.
“We are encouraged by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s new media freedom campaign, as the UK plays an important standard-setting role internationally. We hope this commitment to championing these important issues abroad will in turn result in greater vigilance to our own press freedom climate, and lead to improvements in our areas of shortcoming here in the UK”, said Vincent.
UK press contact: Rebecca Vincent on [email protected] or +44 (0)7583 137751