Speech: Britain champions free speech, so we’re leading the war on fake news: article by Jeremy Hunt


War Hero
John Stuart Mill stands among the greatest and most optimistic champions of freedom who lived. As long ago as 1859, he wrote: “The time, it is to be hoped, is gone by when any defence would be necessary of the liberty of the press as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government.”

Sadly, the argument that Mill thought settled is still raging in many parts of the world. This year, 62 journalists have been murdered and hundreds more locked up for no offence save doing their jobs. The appalling killing of Jamal Khashoggi on October 2 provides more evidence of the risks that many journalists are forced to run.

Defending a free media must therefore be a central element of British foreign policy, in keeping with our country’s role as an invisible chain linking the nations that share our values.

I write as a politician and, like many in my profession, I do not always enjoy reading what the newspapers say about me. The media sometimes make mistakes and journalists, being human, are not beyond hyperbole and excess. But none of us would wish to live in a country where newspapers are muzzled or controlled. A media willing and able to investigate wrongdoing, expose failures and criticise the mighty, provides one of the strongest defences against corruption and arbitrary state power.

The Foreign Office has always sought to encourage good governance and defeat corruption. Promoting a free media is an essential part of achieving both goals. This is not mere assertion or guesswork. Hard evidence shows a striking overlap between the countries with the least corruption and the countries with the freest media.

If you take the 10 cleanest nations in the world, as ranked by Transparency International UK in 2017, 6 of them also appear in the top 10 of the Press Freedom Index.

And the correlation holds at the other end of the scale. Of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world, 4 are also in the bottom 10 when it comes to press freedom.

It takes no great leap of the imagination to understand why. Powerful people will be deterred from abusing their positions if there is a good chance of their behaviour being exposed. The opposite is obviously true: if there is no risk of being found out by the media — or if you can reach a level where you gain immunity from scrutiny — then the powerful are far more likely to develop the sense of impunity that leads to corruption.

Next year, I will host an international conference in London on media freedom. My aim is to bring together the countries which believe in this cause in order to mobilise a consensus behind the protection of journalists. Britain will be a chain that links the nations who share our values.

We cannot physically prevent journalists from being locked up in other countries. But if governments choose to jail them without good reason, we can alert global public opinion and impose a diplomatic price.

British embassies routinely lobby their host governments if serious violations of media freedom occur — and I take up individual cases myself. When I met Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese leader, I raised the plight of 2 Reuters journalists imprisoned after reporting from Rakhine State, where more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have been driven from their homes since 2017.

Diplomats from our embassy in Burma attended the trials of the journalists and our ambassador spoke out against the guilty verdict.

We also support media freedom projects through our Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, named after Magna Carta. We are helping to train journalists in Ethiopia, where a new prime minister has promised a more enlightened approach, and in Venezuela, where an authoritarian government has suppressed its critics. We will seek to expand the number of journalists receiving training, including in newsrooms here in the UK.

In the era of fake news and concerted propaganda by hostile states, supporting a free media also means countering the incoming tides of disinformation. While it has never been easier to publish and receive information, it has also never been easier to spread lies and conspiracy theories. Social media offers a malign opportunity to whip up hatred and incite violence against vulnerable minorities.

So Britain is helping to lead the struggle against propaganda and the misuse of the internet. This year, the government is providing £8.5 million for this essential work in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

All of this serves our goal of promoting good governance wherever possible. Yet, in the end, I believe a British Foreign Secretary should defend the free media, not primarily for reasons of policy, but because this is part of what our country stands for. Democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression mean nothing unless independent journalists are able to hold the powerful to account, however inconvenient this might be for those who find themselves on the receiving end.

A free media is part of the assembly of values in which this country believes, making us an invisible chain that links together like-minded nations.

One day, I hope John Stuart Mill’s optimism will be vindicated and there will no longer be any need to defend this cause. Until then, we must do whatever we can to safeguard and promote a free media.

Continue reading...
Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
MoD_RSS Speech: Britain has been shaping the world for centuries. That won’t change with Brexit: article by Jeremy Hunt MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Global Britain's Bright Energy Future MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Britain and Germany - an alliance of values MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Defence in Global Britain MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Global Britain and the economy MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Foreign Secretary Hunt: “Britain's role in a post-Brexit world” MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: A withdrawal agreement that keeps Britain moving MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Britain and France: Past, Present and Future MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Airports are key to Britain’s future prosperity MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Green Great Britain: Climate Policy and Energy Transition MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Britain needs its allies to stand with us against Russia: article by Boris Johnson MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: How Global Britain is helping to win the struggle against Islamist terror MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: "Britain will be a partner you can depend on" - PM in Jordan MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: Britain’s global role: stepping up MoD News 3
MoD_RSS Speech: Battle of Britain: Celebrating and Commemorating 'the Few' 75 years later MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech: A Stronger Britain, Built On Our Values MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Tourism Minister's speech at the Extraordinary G20 Tourism Ministers' Meeting on Covid-19 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS COP26 President speech at opening of Placencia Ambition Forum MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Gavin Williamson speech on COVID-19 response MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Queen's Counsel Appointments Ceremony 2020: Lord Chancellor speech MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Economic secretary speech to the ABCUL MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Education Secretary speech at ASCL's Annual Conference MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech for Airport Operators Association annual dinner MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Budget Speech 2020 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss speech at The House magazine's Women in Westminster: The 100 event MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Housing Minister's speech to the Planning Inspectorate MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Defence Secretary Ben Wallace gives a speech to the Atlantic Council MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Secretary of State Oliver Dowden's speech at the Enders Media and Telecoms Conference MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Times Law Awards 2020: Robert Buckland speech MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Nigel Huddleston Youth Sport Trust Annual Conference speech MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech at GCR Live: Telecoms, Media and Technology 2020 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS IAP Keeping Safe Conference: Robert Buckland speech MoD News 0
MoD_RSS HMA Daniel Pruce's Speech at the Media Freedom Reception MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Nicky Morgan's speech on the future of media and broadcasting MoD News 0
MoD_RSS PM speech at COP 26 Launch: 4 February 2020 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS PM speech in Greenwich: 3 February 2020 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Minister for Digital speech at SINET Global Cybersecurity Innovation Summit MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Baroness Morgan's speech: how we can be the greatest place in the world to grow up MoD News 0
MoD_RSS HRH Prince of Wales Speech at Yad Vashem MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Holocaust Memorial Day: Foreign Secretary's speech MoD News 0
MoD_RSS EST speech at launch of Financial Services Skills Task Force report MoD News 0
MoD_RSS PM speech at the UK Commemorative Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Governor Dakin's speech at TCI National Security Strategy launch: 22 January 2020 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Minister of State speech at UN Global Compact event MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Alok Sharma's closing speech at UK-Africa Investment Summit MoD News 0
MoD_RSS PM Africa Investment Summit speech: 20 January 2020 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Foreign Secretary Introduction to Queen’s Speech Debate MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Foreign Secretary speech: UK & Canada MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Local Government Minister’s speech at the LGA’s local government finance conference 2020 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS PM's speech to British troops in Tapa, Estonia: 21 December 2019 MoD News 0
Similar threads

Latest Threads