The government has published the UK’s first national action plan to protect journalists from abuse and harassment.
Following reports to the UK government from journalists who have suffered abuse and attacks while going about their 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.
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 aspiring and existing 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.
It will be reviewed as necessary on an ongoing basis and supports the wider work the government is doing to uphold freedom of speech, in particular protecting journalistic content from censorship and takedown online. The Government is also publishing a broader update on its ongoing work to tackle intimidation in public life.
Freedom of expression and the right to receive and impart information are recognised and protected by law. Criminal offences committed against journalists exercising those rights jeopardise both the right to free speech and public service, and prosecutors rightly take such offences extremely seriously.
In the plan, the separate UK prosecution services for England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland reaffirm their commitment to taking a robust approach to crimes against journalists and bringing those responsible to justice.