This Briefing summarises the Public Bill Committee stages of the Online Safety Bill [Bill 4 2022-23].
World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) was observed on 03 May 2022. A debate will be held on WPFD in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 21 June 2022 at 9.30am, opened by Damian Collins MP.
WPFD is an initiative from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to support and reflect on the work of media organisations and professionals. It seeks to hold governments to account over their commitment to press freedom and allow the press to reflect on professional ethics. According to its website, the day:
“acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.”
The theme of this year’s WPFD Global Conference (held in Punta Del Este, Uruguay) was “Journalism Under Digital Siege.” The goal is to underline the role of the information in an online media environment by focussing on the following:
- the digital era’s impact on freedom of expression.
- the safety or journalists.
- access to information.
The United Kingdom ranks 33rd on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders and is marked as yellow. This is a second-place categorisation, indicating that press freedom in the UK is generally ‘satisfactory’ but not ‘good’.
The Government has said that its Online Safety Bill (PDF) will protect freedom of expression and journalistic content online, although critics disagree. For further background, see the Library Briefing, Analysis of the Online Safety Bill (PDF) (8 April 2022).
On 9 March 2021, the Government published its first National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists to combat the phenomenon of UK journalists “facing both abuse and threats to their personal safety as well as encroachments on their freedom of expression.”
A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Home Office call for evidence on the safety of journalists ran from 2 June 2021 to 14 July 2021. The findings were published in a November 2021 report. According to the report, further research was needed “to build a more robust picture” of the issues covered in the call for evidence.
Last year, to mark WFPD 2021, the Media Freedom Coalition, a partnership of countries advocating for media freedom, released a statement (3 May 2021). This outlined the contemporary challenges that journalism faces:
“Journalists and media workers increasingly face physical and verbal violence, threats and intimidation, lawsuits and imprisonment with the aim of silencing them. Online harassment against women journalists has increased exponentially. The repeated use of anti-media rhetoric by some politicians and government leaders is eroding media freedom and is putting individual journalists at risk.”
This year, statements to mark WPFD 2022 were issued by organisations including:
- The United Nations
- The National Union of Journalists
- The UN General Assembly Presidents
- The Group of Friends to the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe
- The Media Freedom Coalition
Parliamentary Questions on Press Freedom
House of Commons UIN 905937 [on global media freedom], answered 08 March 2022
House of Commons UIN 906276 [on protecting freedom of expression], answered 24 March 2022
RSF website, Detailed methodology – How the Press Freedom Index is calculated
2021 World Press Freedom to promote Information as a Public Good in a severely challenged media landscape (unesco.org) – Detailing the WPFD 2021 Conference held in Windhoek for its 30th anniversary
House of Commons, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, Thursday 17 March 2022, c1059
FCDO, Media Freedom Coalition: an overview, 7 April 2021
DCMS, Online Safety Bill: factsheet, 19 April 2022