Grade advocates safety in numbers

Despite innate competitive instincts, journalists must come together as a global industry to defend their own safety.

This was the stark message from BBC chairman Sir Michael Grade in a keynote speech at the closing session of the IPI world congress on Tuesday.

Grade, who revealed that a third of the cost of the BBC's current Baghdad operation was the cost of security for its news teams working there, said: "These are times when journalists need to set their competitive instincts aside. Times when they need to come together as a global industry. Times — and now is one of them — when they need to take a stand and show some solidarity.

"Solidarity is a bit of an unfashionable word. But solidarity is what is needed now. Solidarity with journalists under threat around the globe."

Noting that well over 500 journalists had been killed worldwide in the past 10 years, Grade said: "Many of these journalists were not killed because they were in combat zones.

"They were killed because they were doing what journalists ought to do — to speak truth to power. They did so, and power took its revenge. Attacks like these are not just attacks on journalists; they are attacks on the principle of free expression itself… attacks on democracy.

"This is the context in which this IPI congress has taken place — the mounting threat to free expression posed by the apparent impunity with which inconvenient journalists can be disposed of."

Grade urged the global media industry to collaborate on safety, spend what it takes to ensure safety, follow the highest professional standards and keep the media spotlight on the issue.

He said it was essential that safety never became a competitive issue. The BBC held regular meetings with its national and international competitors to share its safety information freely, and learn from the experience of others.

In the past five years, he added, the amount BBC newsgathering spent on safety had roughly doubled.

"A free press is a lot easier to defend when journalists follow the highest professional standards," he said.

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