UK Government launches plan to protect journalists from abuse

A national action plan to protect journalists from abuse and harassment has been launched by the UK Government.

The UK Government is looking at more safeguards for journalists against abuse. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The move follows reports to the government from journalists who have suffered intimidation and attacks at 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, with BAME women suffering the most abuse.

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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 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.

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said the plan “recognises the urgency of protecting journalists carrying out their vital role in protecting democracy”.

"Due to their role in holding the powerful and those in authority to task, journalists attract strong reactions. But this should not manifest itself in ways that threaten journalists and their families. This action plan makes that clear."

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Attacks on journalists are designed to silence and intimidate those who work to uphold the public’s right to know.

“It’s clear that reported incidents are the tip of the iceberg and that harassment and abuse has become normalised. This action plan, with its range of practical measures and protections, is an important step towards changing that.”

The plan sets out a series of commitments from relevant organisations, including Facebook and Twitter, who have committed to “respond promptly” to complaints of threats to journalists’ safety.

The separate UK prosecution services for Scotland, England and Wales and Northern Ireland have also “reaffirmed their commitment” to taking a robust approach to crimes against journalists and bringing those responsible to justice.

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