British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt while speaking on a conference on media freedom on Wednesday, said nations that abuse journalists should pay a “diplomatic price”. She added that liberal democracies must also “practice what we preach”.
Hunt raised the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the jailing of activists in China and Vietnam and the murder of reporters in Mexico. He is competing with Boris Johnson to become Britain’s next leader.
“If we act together we can shine a spotlight on abuses and impose a diplomatic price on those who would harm journalists or lock them up for doing their jobs,” he said. The London conference, co-hosted with Canada, brings together 60 ministers and around 1,500 journalists, activists and academics from 100 different countries.
Hunt told a press conference that Britain and Canada want to create a group of “like-minded countries to lobby in unison where media freedom comes under attack.”
“It’s easier to speak up when you’re not alone,” added Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. To kickstart a global fund to offer legal advice and safety training to journalists, Britain has pledged 3 million pounds. Another 15 million pounds have been pledged to help independent media.
According to Hunt, his own country itself must “do better,” after being ranked 33rd in the 2019 world press freedom index by campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“Those of us that believe in open societies have to practice what we preach,” he said.
He was asked about his opinion on US President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media for “fake news,” to which he replied, “I wouldn’t agree with it.”
“We have to remember that what we say can have an impact in other countries where they can’t take press freedom for granted,” he added. International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who was present at the same event, said: “Today the country of James Madison has a leader who vilifies the media, making honest journalists all over the world more vulnerable to abuse.”