The UK has committed to launching, what UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt at World Press Freedom Day 2019 in Ethiopia described as ‘a global campaign to protect journalists doing their job and promote the benefits of a free media’. In July, the UK will host a ministerial summit on media freedom in London which CFOM has been invited to attend.
Within this context and recognised as an international expert on media freedom, journalism safety and impunity by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Jackie Harrison was invited to give evidence on 7 May to the Foreign Affairs Committee on the issue of Global Media Freedom.
At this Committee meeting Jackie Harrison was asked for her expert opinion regarding various issues ranging from the meaning and significance of impunity, the importance of journalism for civil society, the situation of press freedom in Europe and specifically in Turkey, the protection of female journalists, media literacy, journalism training as well as what the UK should be doing within this initiative to strengthen media freedom effectively.
According to Jackie, attacks on journalists (including intimidation, threats, arbitrary detention and kidnapping) and by extension, on the idea and very concept of free journalism can be explained by the potency of journalism and its power to destabilise those in power who would like to rather not be accountable.
Jackie also emphasised that of course, legal frameworks to counter attacks on journalists and journalism are incredibly important but she stressed that it is also crucial to understand journalists’ everyday lived experience when it comes to fighting constraints on media freedom and the issue of impunity. However, so Jackie argues, this local and mundane experience is too often forgotten.
It is important to understand that journalism does not exist in isolation and should not be regarded as disconnected from society. Journalism and civil society are intrinsically linked and journalism has to be considered part and parcel of the development of civil society. In order to facilitate this, an investment in capacity-building is critical.
When asked about the situation of press freedom in Europe, Jackie stressed that what is happening in European democracies that have lively civil societies is incredibly pernicious. We can witness the rise of antagonism where the government and market forces attack the very institution of journalism and an increase of echo chambers and partisan news media. Jackie stressed the need to use the mechanisms we have in Europe to counter this and to be aware that what we have in terms of press freedom is fragile and can easily be lost. Strong public condemnation is required to prevent the diminishment of civil societies in Europe.
You can see Jackie’s contribution at the committee in the videos below.