UK Government publishes first ever national action plan to protect journalists

  • Plan sets out how journalists will be protected from threats of violence and intimidation
  • Includes new measures to research the problem and training for police forces and journalists
  • Broadcasters, publishers, social media companies, law enforcement, industry bodies, unions and the government all make pledges

It follows reports to the government from journalists who have suffered abuse and attacks while going about their work, including being punched, threatened with knives, forcibly detained and subjected to rape and death threats.

A survey of members of the National Union of Journalists in November also found more than half of respondents had experienced online abuse while nearly a quarter had been physically assaulted or attacked.

The plan will increase awareness of the safety challenges faced by journalists operating in the UK and introduce measures to tackle them in a joint effort by law enforcement, broadcasters, publishers, industry bodies, unions and the government.

Measures include new training for police officers as well as aspiring and existing journalists, and commitments from social media platforms and prosecution services to take tough action against abusers – including responding promptly to complaints of threats to journalists’ safety.

The plan has been endorsed by the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, membership of which comprises industry stakeholders including the National Union of Journalists and Society of Editors.

It will be reviewed as necessary on an ongoing basis and supports the wider work the government is doing to uphold freedom of speech, in particular protecting journalistic content from censorship and takedown online. The Government is also publishing a broader update today on its ongoing work to tackle intimidation in public life.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“Freedom of speech and a free press are at the very core of our democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened.

“The cowardly attacks and abuse directed at reporters for simply doing their job cannot continue.

“This action plan is just the start of our work to protect those keeping the public informed, and defend those holding the government to account.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“Attacks on journalists are not only horrendous for those individuals but an assault on our democracy. Today’s action plan will make sure journalists can go about their vital work without fear.

“But just as we protect the physical safety of journalists we must protect their freedom to write and report too. Tackling worrying trends on online censorship of journalistic content and controversial views, we will ensure our forthcoming online safety laws build in robust protections for journalism.”

Minister

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