A POLITICIAN who stands up for journalists might seem like the proverbial turkey who campaigns for Christmas.
But the right of a free media to criticise the powerful and expose their mistakes and wrongdoing is a central pillar of an open society.
The thin line that separates a free country from an oppressive one is the ability of people to speak their minds and hold the mighty to account. Democracy and freedom of expression mean nothing unless journalists are able to expose the truth.
Of course, freedom-hating politicians like Jeremy Corbyn disagree. He criticises interviewers who ask him tough questions, while his supporters often boo journalists at press conferences.
He might not care, but everyone benefits from the media’s role as a safeguard against corruption and misrule.
All of us in Britain are better off because of our proud tradition of Press freedom dating back centuries.
The explosive growth of British newspapers in the 19th Century coincided with ambitious social reform and millions of people winning the right to vote. As long ago as 1863, we already had 1,000 publications.
Countries that have a free media are better governed
But not every country has been so fortunate. In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, for example, 16 journalists have been murdered since 2009.
Across the world, 99 journalists were killed last year and another 348 locked up.
In Venezuela and Cuba — two countries Labour looks to for inspiration — assaults on the public have gone hand in hand with attacks on the media. This has got to stop. Our national interests are best served when our values of freedom are shared by other countries. As Foreign Secretary, I am determined Britain will be a global champion of media freedom.
I’ve joined our Canadian friends to launch a worldwide campaign to protect journalists and promote a free media. Our aim is to shine a spotlight on abuses and raise the price for those who would harm or lock up journalists.
In July, Britain and Canada will co-host an international conference on media freedom in London.
I have travelled to 24 countries and met a quarter of the world’s foreign ministers. When journalists have been threatened or jailed, I have frequently raised their cases.
I am determined to send a message that Britain cares.
Today, I will take that message to the G7, the top table of the world’s richest countries.
I will be joined by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, whose campaign for two Reuters journalists jailed in Burma has rightly captured the world’s attention.
Everyone has an interest in allowing journalists to do their jobs because countries with a free media are always better governed.
If you look up the ten least corrupt nations in the world, as ranked by Transparency International last year, seven also appear in the top ten of the Press Freedom Index.
It is not hard to see why. Powerful people will be less likely to abuse their positions if there is a real risk of being found out.
Newspapers do make mistakes and journalists are only human.
But none of us would wish to live in a nation where the media is gagged. Britain’s job is to take that message to the world, and I will do everything possible to help journalists to work in safety.
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JEREMY Hunt today reveals he has appointed Amal Clooney as a media freedom ambassador to fight for free speech across the globe.
The human rights lawyer wife of Hollywood legend George Clooney has campaigned to free jailed journalists abroad.
Mr Hunt has made it one of his missions as Foreign Office boss for Britain to be a global champion for the cause.
The UK is hosting an international conference on media freedom in London in July, alongside Canada.
Ms Clooney, 41, will join Mr Hunt today at a meeting of G7 foreign ministers.
Writing for The Sun today, the Foreign Secretary reveals: “Together we will work to ensure the legal protections available for journalists are maintained, and the global spread of laws against hate speech and fake news do not unintentionally harm the work of the media.
“I will do everything possible to help journalists to work in safety.”
Mr Hunt dubbed a free media in any country as “the thin line that separates a free country from an oppressive one”.
- By Tom Newton Dunn, Political Editor