States must uphold existing global commitments to protect media but also be willing to speak out publicly when others fail to protect journalists and journalism, Index on Censorship said on Tuesday.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office will this week host a major global conference on media freedom attended by governments, journalists, civil society and academics. Index on Censorship welcomes this renewed focus on the importance of a free and independent media from countries like the UK.
The enironment for media freedom is grim: Ninety-four journalists were killed in 2018 and over 250 imprisoned. Four were killed in European Union countries alone. A more public recognition by democratic countries of its importance is therefore positive.
However, warm words must be matched with action. States must not only uphold existing global commitments to protect media but also be willing to speak out publicly when others fail to protect a free and independent media and – vitally – follow up with measures that punish states for failing to protect media freedom. This include states that jail, or collude in the killing and harassment of journalists, or fail to pursue justice for journalists targeted for their work.
“States need to do not just talk about doing,” said Index chief executive Jodie Ginsberg. “Nor should they rush to implement new structures in order to be seen to be tackling this issue. There are already many mechanisms to train and support journalists in danger and to build a vibrant pluralistic media. States should be supporting these rather than creating new and parallel structures.”