Journalists around the world must be able to report on ‘dark side of power’, says Hunt

'Media freedom is not a Western but a universal value', says the Tory leader hopeful

Kim Sengupta
Diplomatic Editor
Wednesday 10 July 2019 06:51
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Ensuring that journalists are able to shed light on oppression and “the dark side of power” is not just a Western value but a “universal cause”, the foreign secretary is due to say at the opening of a major international media conference in London.

An unprecedented number of delegates, from over a hundred countries, including more than 60 ministers as well as 1,500 journalists, academics and campaigners are due at the meeting aimed at protecting freedom of expression and shielding members of the media from violence and intimidation.

A range of cases of targeting the journalists will be examined. They include the murders of the Jamal Khashoggi, in which Saudi officials are key suspects: Daphne Caruana Galizia, the writer and anti-corruption campaigner killed in a car bombing in Malta and Lyra McKee, shot dead in Northern Ireland while covering street protests.

Ninety-five journalists were killed while carrying out their work last year, according to the International Federation of Journalists, and hundreds of others have been imprisoned, tortured experience daily, often violent, intimidation.

Jeremy Hunt, who will be present alongside the human rights lawyer and the foreign secretary’s special envoy on media freedom, Amal Clooney and the Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, is due to stress that journalists are fundamental to the exposure of corruption.

“Never before have so many countries come together in this cause. And today we send a strong message that media freedom is not a Western but a universal value…. At its best, a free media both protects society from the abuse of power and helps to release the full potential of a country,” Mr Hunt will say in a keynote speech.

“And today we send a strong message that media freedom is not a Western but a universal value…. At its best, a free media both protects society from the abuse of power and helps to release the full potential of a country.”

Mr Hunt will hold that the “strongest safeguard against the dark side of power is accountability and scrutiny” provided by a free media.

“The open exchange of ideas through a free media allows the genius of a society to breathe, releasing the originality and creativity of the entire population. Societies which embrace free debate”.

“Norway, with only 5 million people, has won 13 Nobel Prizes. They have flourished because their open society and free media – ranked the freest in the world - have created the very best setting for their talents to thrive.”

Mr Hunt will also argue that the global struggle against corruption is enhanced by a free media: “Of the 10 cleanest countries in the world, as ranked by Transparency International, seven are also in the top 10 of the World Press Freedom Index” he is due to say.

Speaking ahead of the conference, co-host Ms Freeland said “A free press is the cornerstone of any democratic society and essential for the protection and promotion of human rights. I look forward to two days of in-depth conversations on the current state of media freedom and on the practical steps we can take to bring about positive change in our own countries and around the world.”

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