News 

National Committee for the Safety of Journalists holds first meeting

The Society of Editors has joined a new government-backed committee aimed at ensuring the safety of journalists.

National Committee for the Safety of Journalists holds first meeting
John Whittingdale: “The rise in misinformation during the pandemic has highlighted once again the valuable role played by journalists working for reputable news organisations.”

The National Committee for the Safety of Journalists held its first meeting on 13 July. The meeting brought together representatives from government, journalism, policing, prosecution services and the civil service working in collaboration to ensure journalists are free from threats and violence.

Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale and Minister for Safeguarding Victoria Atkins co-chaired the committee. The meeting also heard from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations.

The committee’s first objective is to develop a National Action Plan which sets out a framework through which the safety of journalists can be ensured and they can be protected from physical harm and threats of violence.

“The UK has been at the forefront of the global campaign for media freedom but it is also essential that we protect the safety of journalists at home,” commented John Whittingdale speaking before the meeting that was held under Chatham House rules.

“The rise in misinformation during the pandemic has highlighted once again the valuable role played by journalists working for reputable news organisations who produce accurate and balanced high-quality journalism.

“We must do all we can to ensure that they can carry this out free from threats and intimidation.”

Representatives from police services across the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service, the press including the BBC, as well as the National Union of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and the Society of Editors were invited to join committee.

Individual journalists may also be asked to attend on an ad hoc basis to share their experiences.

Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray said the organisation was pleased to be able to support the committee.

“Journalism is not a crime nor is it at odds with society. Indeed it plays an important role in keeping society free, and yet increasingly we see journalists targeted for violence and abuse,” said Murray.

“This committee’s role in pinpointing action to combat this is both welcome and of vital importance.”

The inaugural meeting of the committee comes soon after it was announced four regional publishers were launching an initiative to gauge the scale of the online threats made towards their journalists. Journalists working for Reach Plc, Newsquest, Archant and JPIMedia have been asked to provide evidence of incidents of threats and abuse they have suffered.