This UK statement was delivered at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva during the General Debate on Item 3: Freedom of the Media, held on 8 March 2018.
A free and independent media fulfils a vital role in holding the powerful to account and giving a voice to the powerless. There are positive signs of commitment to improve media freedom in countries such as Gambia and Ecuador. Yet in too many parts of the world, the independence of the media is under attack and journalists subject to intimidation and violence.
Reporters Without Borders report that 70 journalists were killed over the past year. Freedom House estimates that only 13% of the world’s population has domestic access to a free press. In Maldives the Defamation and Freedom of Speech Act has been used to fine broadcasters for airing speeches made at opposition rallies – and at those rallies journalists have been attacked and pepper-sprayed by the police. In South Sudan, the Government continues to curtail media freedom, including by violently intimidating journalists, closing down media organizations, and blocking websites. Nine journalists have been killed since 2011.
Foreign and domestic media reporting in China is routinely censored. In 2017, the new cyber security law criminalized online information deemed to have damaged national honor or disturbed economic or social order. In December, blogger Wu Gan was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for subverting state power. New regulations to close unregistered VPNs further restricted access to uncensored media.
We will continue to raise issues of freedom of expression in Turkey, Eritrea and Egypt, including around the unjustified imprisonment of journalists. We will join calls to counter the practice of internet shutdowns, particularly around election periods.
Journalists continue to be at risk across the world and not only where there is war and conflict. It happens everywhere including in EU Member States. All states must ensure that those who commit violence against journalists are brought to justice.