Each year, members of the Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations gather to discuss threats to journalists around the world and plan action. Usually, we focus on frontline countries where journalists face life and death issues. But as our annual meeting took place in London this year, we couldn’t help but notice the emerging threats to press freedom in the United Kingdom, which range from pressure applied to the Guardian in response to its reporting on the Snowden leaks to the royal charter that seeks to impose ethical standards on the print media in the aftermath of the phone hacking scandal.
Prior to the Coordinating Committee meeting, the World Association of Newspapers and Newspublishers (WAN-IFRA) organized a fact-finding mission that allowed us to hear a wide range of views on these and other issues. Based on those meetings, members of the committee came together to draft a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. The letter calls on the prime minister to do two things: distance himself from the investigation into the Guardian, and urge Parliament to repeal the statute that underlies the royal charter. Why should he do this? Because, “Britain’s democracy, including its robust and diverse media, has been an inspiration to people around the world who struggle to be free, and is a source of British ‘soft power’ and influence… Any action that diminishes that perception not only emboldens autocratic leaders to take repressive action against the media but it erodes the ability of Britain to exercise moral suasion and to defend the rights of the world’s most vulnerable journalists.”