MPs Pay Tribute to Journalists Working in Conflict Zones

MPs have highlighted the importance of journalists such as Marie Colvin reporting from conflict zones and the vital role of the UK as a beacon for press freedom on the world stage.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate on journalists’ deaths on Monday, MPs condemned the killing of journalists working in highly dangerous environments across the world, and highlighted the importance of defending the principles of freedom of expression.  

Speaking behalf of the Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs James Duddridge paid tribute to The Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin who was killed while working in Syria as “a fine example of someone who chooses to put themselves in harm’s way to reveal and report the truth.”

He said: “According to Reporters Without Borders, 110 journalists were killed last year and many more were injured, captured or imprisoned. It is right that this Government and Members of this House put on record our admiration for those who are willing to risk everything in pursuit of reporting the truth.

“My honourable friend spoke eloquently about the importance of a free press, and highlighted that, in many parts of the world, the media are restricted in their ability to challenge authority, promote new ways of thinking or root out corruption.

“Media freedom is vital. Without a free press, corruption goes unchecked, individuals cannot flourish and economies are constrained. This Government make that point to all our international partners, regardless of where they are around the world

“In protecting journalists, therefore, we are not seeking to defend what they say, but, crucially, their right to say it. Freedom of expression should be protected, respected and cherished, because it is fundamental to a healthy democracy to encourage debate and to promote free and innovative thinking.

“As opinion formers, information sources and challengers of received wisdom, journalists play a crucial role.

“Whether they are bringing news from war zones or elsewhere, the Government will stand up for their right to operate freely and safely. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will agree with that sentiment, and that we should thank journalists from the bottom of our hearts for their continued good works.”

The debate was brought by Nusrat Ghani MP, Conservative, who said: “When a member of our armed forces is killed in a conflict zone, the Prime Minister rightly takes a moment at the beginning of Prime Minister’s questions to remind the nation of the sacrifice that that brave serviceman or woman has made.

“But with the notable exception of people such as Marie Colvin, we do not hear anywhere near as much about the sacrifices made by a large number of professional and citizen journalists every year in the name of newsgathering.

“Conflict is changing incredibly quickly. Lots of chaotic terrorism acts are happening all over the world, and, quite often, we rely on journalists to be our eyes and ears on the ground.”

Jim Shannon, DUP, said that the UK  and “other liberal democracies” should be “promoting free speech and liberty across the globe, through the media and through journalism.”