An all-party parliamentary group on press freedom in the UK will launch this summer, it was announced today on World Press Freedom Day.
Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP (pictured) will chair the APPG, which has been set up by press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres).
The APPG aims to involve MPs from all political parties and will “focus on promoting and defending press freedom both in the UK and globally”, RSF said.
It will formally launch on the eve of the Foreign Office’s international media freedom conference, to be held in London from 10 to 11 July.
Whittingdale said: “Media freedom and the protection of journalists are fundamental requirements for a free and democratic society. Yet they are under greater threat today than for many years.”
He said the likes of RSF had been doing “vital work to highlight the number of deaths, kidnappings and imprisonment of journalists that are taking place in countries across the world” in recent years.
“I hope that the APPG will ensure that its [press freedom’s] importance is also high on Parliament’s agenda and I am delighted at the support that has already been shown by MPs from all parties.”
RSF UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent said: “We are excited to be launching this APPG at a time when global press freedom is under greater attack than ever before.
“The UK plays an important standard-setting role when it comes to press freedom and broader human rights, and we believe increased attention to these crucial issues by UK parliamentarians will set a positive international example, as well as help address some of the worrying trends that continue at home”.
RSF’s World Press Freedom Index for 2019, issued last month, revealed that only 9 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries where journalists are able to carry out their work freely and independently.
The UK was ranked at 33 out of 180 countries on the index, rising from 40 last year. Nonetheless, RSF raised concerns about trends in national security and data protection laws that could impede on UK press freedom.
World Press Freedom Day this year comes only two weeks after Irish journalist Lyra Mckee was shot dead while reporting on riots in the Creggan area of Derry, Northern Ireland.
Terrorist group the New IRA has claimed responsibility for her death. Her funeral last week brought political leaders together, among them was the Prime Minister and the heads of Sinn Fein and the DUP.
As many as 94 media workers were killed while doing their jobs last year. Among them were Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Slovak data journalist Jan Kuciak and Bulgarian TV journalist Victoria Marinova.
To mark World Press Freedom Day, BBC News has published a piece by Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of murdered Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in 42 languages around the world.
The article discusses the ongoing investigation into her death – she was killed by a car bomb in 2017.
Pope Francis was among those speaking up for press freedom on social media today. He said: “We need a journalism that is free, at the service of truth, goodness, and justice, a journalism that helps build a culture of encounter.”