As the UK champions global media freedom, domestic trends remain cause for concern
Despite the UK co-hosting a Global Conference for Media Freedom and assuming the role of co-chair of the new Media Freedom Coalition, the UK’s domestic press freedom record remained cause for concern throughout 2019. The killing of journalist Lyra McKee whilst observing rioting in Derry in April, and continued threats to journalists covering paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, underscored the need for urgent attention to the safety of journalists; however there was no apparent progress towards the establishment of a National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and a National Action Plan on Safety of Journalists as announced by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in July. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange received a disproportionate prison sentence of 50 weeks for breaking bail. The Home Secretary gave the green light to the court to consider the US’ extradition request, and Assange remained in custody at the high security Belmarsh Prison despite widespread international concern for his health and treatment, including by the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture. Counter-terrorism and crime legislation adopted during the year contained worrying provisions that could restrict reporting and put journalists’ data at risk. The London Metropolitan Police pursued the publication of leaked information from diplomatic cables as a “criminal matter.” Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) were used as a means to attempt to silence public interest reporting, such as in defamation cases brought by Arron Banks against journalist Carole Cadwalladr. During the general election campaign, the Conservative Party threatened to review the BBC’s licence fee and Channel 4’s public service broadcasting licence if the party returned to government.
33 in 2019
22.23 in 2019