On 13th May, the Rt Revd John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, received a written answer from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on the Government’s assessment of the restriction of journalism abroad.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: HL3569 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the extent to which countries have used COVID-19 as a pretext to introduce restrictive measures against independent media outlets and to arrest and intimidate journalists for providing critical coverage of the relevant government’s COVID-19 response.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing threats to free and independent media around the world, which were already very alarming. Media freedom is vital to functioning democracies and journalists must be able to investigate and report without undue interference. We must oppose all attempts by any state to use the pandemic to adopt restrictions on press freedom, silence debate, abuse journalists or spread misinformation.
We are also deeply concerned to see that across the world, publications are contracting and closing, and journalists being made redundant because of falling revenues. The UK, as part of the Executive Group of the Media Freedom Coalition, issued a statement on 6 April reaffirming the fundamental importance of media freedom and calling on all states to protect access to free media during the COVID-19 pandemic. And in the UK statement at the UN Human Rights Council’s virtual conversation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 9 April, we stressed the important role of the media, alongside parliaments and civil society, in scrutinising the actions of governments and international agencies during this crisis.