UK: Govts have ‘duty’ to support free press

The government has used World Press Freedom Day to affirm its commitment to defend and protect media workers, who it claims are too often targeted for their work.

News organisations across the globe are celebrating Press Freedom Day, which was launched by the UN in 1993. Vigils are also being held for Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent currently held hostage in Gaza.

International NGOs estimate more than 120 journalist, including Alan Johnson, are in prison across the world or being held against their will.

Foreign Office minister Ian McCarthy said the UK “regularly” raises their cases with foreign governments.

He argued governments should feel “obliged” to support Press Freedom Day and have “a duty to eliminate barriers to freedom of expression and to create an environment where free speech and free media can flourish.”

Attacks and murders on journalists too often go un-prosecuted, Mr McCarthy said, creating a culture of impunity and a chilling effect among the media.

In the UK, the National Union of Journalist and Amnesty International are holding events to mark Press Freedom Day.

Amnesty International argues the deliberate targeting of journalists in conflict zones should be seen as a war crime. Media personnel are civilians and attacks breach the Geneva Convention.

The International Federation of Journalist reports 2006 was the worst year on record for attacks on journalists, with at least 155 murders, assassinations and unexplained deaths.

In December 2006, the UN security general passed a resolution condemning intentional attacks against journalists.