OXFORD MEDIA SOCIETY
This Wednesday, 3rd May, marked the thirtieth world Press Freedom Day. As usual, Reporters Without Borders published its annual report, The World Press Freedom Index. This time round it ranked the United Kingdom in twenty-sixth place, two positions worse than the year prior.
The report echoed domestic concerns regarding the arrests of journalists covering protests, the safety of journalists in Northern Ireland in particular, and that the threat of costly libel action is forcing some media outlets that are set on covering more sensitive investigations to crowdfund. Reporters Without Borders also relayed vital concerns about the National Security Bill which could in effect criminalise investigative journalism, and of course, regarding the home secretary’s approval of Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S. It appears that the government’s assurances that media freedom is a priority do not align with its actions. Indeed, the UK media, already lacking in pluralism, now lags even further behind its neighbouring Ireland.
In 2022, the Irish government accepted 49 of 50 recommendations published in The Future of Media Commission’s report, including a new Media Fund and support for local democracy reporting (reporting on decision-making processes). The same year, a review of Ireland’s Defamation Act recommending clearer law protection for public interest journalism and the introduction of anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) mechanisms was ‘largely welcomed’. This is a stark contrast to the situation in London which, as Reporters Without Borders points out, has earned a reputation for being ‘defamation capital of the world’. It appears that while new legislation closes in on press freedom in the UK, Ireland is taking steps to increase dialogue and transparency instead. Should journalists the UK, and the British public be demanding more?
Week 3’s events, a virtual talk with Rachel Riley on Tuesday, followed by a live broadcast with Times Radio on Thursday, provide a brilliant opportunity to find out more about the country’s media landscape first-hand, from professionals in the industry.