Osborne: Press Freedom ‘One Eternal Guarantee of Freedom’

George Osborne made a toast to the freedom of the press which he described as the “one eternal guarantee of freedom” at a Westminster event.

In a speech to lobby journalists, Mr Osborne spoke at length about the importance of press freedom and the measures the Government were taking to help the local media sector, adding that he and Culture Secretary John Whittingdale were “determined to do what we can to help.”  

He concluded his speech with a toast to the freedom of the press, saying: “Show me a country that controls its press and I will show you a Government that controls its people.”

Mr Osborne said: “There is no more precious freedom than the freedom of the press. It is the freedom that underpins all our freedoms, the one guarantee of freedom of speech, the ultimate protection against abuse of power, the clearest statement that nobody is above the law, nobody is beyond question, nobody can monopolise public attention. The campaigns, the scoops, even the ridicule holds power to account.

“And the most basic journalistic endeavour, the search for a story, means there is no cause and no plea for justice that is forever without a voice.

“Every day in newsrooms, journalists, editors and subs put together enough information to fill the pages of War and Peace, every day. The skill is astonishing and without this skill the high flown rhetoric of the most well crafted constitution would mean nothing.

“It is the irreverence of journalism, the challenging , sometimes infuriating, occasionally wayward, always invigorating, journalistic spirit that makes a free society truly free.

“Show me a country that controls its press and I will show you a Government that controls its people. So I finish with a toast to the one eternal guarantee of freedom, the freedom of the press.”         

He referenced the Newspaper Conference annual lunch in 2014, chaired by Archant group political editor Annabelle Dickson, at which he  spoke of the importance of local newspapers.

Mr Osborne said last night: “If we are going to have powerful elected mayors, local decisions taken on everything from health to criminal justice then we do need strong local media to hold them to account.

“We need professional journalists present in those council meetings keeping tabs on what they are up to.

“And as power is devolved out of Whitehall a dynamic and vibrant local media is more vital to our democracy than ever before.”

“There isn’t an easy answer we all know that but John Whittingdale and I are determined to do what we can to help.  

“From next April I can tell you we will be cutting business rates specifically for local newspaper offices and we are engaged in negotiations now with the BBC to see how we can use the licence fee to support local independent newsgathering.”