COMMENT 

Abuse And Intimidation Of Journalists Must Stop

To coincide with Journalism Matters week, News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith calls for an end to the abuse and intimidation of journalists as threats ramp up across the world.

By Owen Meredith

Abuse And Intimidation Of Journalists Must Stop
Owen Meredith.

Trusted journalism has a key role to play in many areas of our lives today.

During the pandemic, we have seen time and time again the vital importance of the public being able to access accurate news and information in a timely fashion.

Through their campaigns and appeals, news media titles have been active players in the recovery and will continue to be so.

And, as world leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26, the importance of journalism in tackling climate change cannot be overstated.

Only through robust public debate and scrutiny will we find the innovative solutions to the immense challenges that the climate crisis presents.

The value of journalism to society has never been greater.

Many journalists on local, regional, and national titles face a daily onslaught of vile abuse and threats on social media.

Yet, sadly, journalists today face an increasing array of threats and intimidation from those who would rather the truth remained hidden from view.

Here in the UK, many journalists on local, regional, and national titles face a daily onslaught of vile abuse and threats on social media.

A new survey of the sector has found that more than four out of five respondents had experienced incidents, such as ‘abuse’, ‘intimidation’ and ‘threats of violence’, both online and offline, at varying frequency.

And, shockingly, more than one in three female respondents indicated that they do not feel safe operating as a journalist in the UK.

That’s completely unacceptable.

The picture globally is also deteriorating.

Last year, a UNESCO report warned of a sharp escalation in abuse of journalists and called for governments internationally to act.

Journalists across the globe covering demonstrations related to COVID-19 restrictions or vaccinations face abuse, intimidation and assault while doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

At the time of writing, Mexico has the grim title of being the deadliest country for journalists to work in, with seven killings in the country so far in 2021 out of a global total of 35, according to Reporters Without Borders.

We have also seen the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, prompting journalists and those who have assisted them in their work to flee the country in fear of their lives.

And, closer to home, the killing of Lyra McKee in April 2019 serves as a stark reminder of the threat.

It’s a bleak picture for a sector that seeks to serve the public by uncovering truths on their behalf.

In the UK, we welcome the clear commitment from Government to tackle the growing threat to journalists’ safety through its National Action Plan.

No-one should have to go to work fearing that they will be abused, assaulted or worse. Journalists are no different.

This week (1-7 November), the news media sector celebrates its annual Journalism Matters campaign to highlight the importance of trusted journalism to our society.

Please join us in celebrating what journalists do, and by condemning those who would seek to silence journalists through abuse, intimidation and physical violence.

Journalism matters more than ever, and we need to work together to ensure that journalists can continue to perform their vital work on behalf of the public and help answer the challenges that we all face.

As world leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26, the importance of journalism in tackling climate change cannot be overstated.