Lord Black: S40 Sends ‘Calamitous Signal’ To Rest Of The World

Section 40 sends a “calamitous signal” to the rest of the world about the UK’s approach to press freedom, in particular repressive regimes in which freedom of speech is quashed through intimidation and violence, Commonwealth Press Union Media Trust chairman Lord Black of Brentwood has said.  

At a presentation of the Astor Award to the family of assassinated Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia this week, Lord Black spoke about the importance of press freedom and investigative journalism in society with a focus on the Commonwealth.  

The event, organised by the CPU and the News Media Association and held at Telegraph Media Group, celebrates individuals who have contributed to the defence of press and media freedom in the Commonwealth. In his speech, Lord Black stressed the importance of a free media to democracy saying: “There’s never yet been a successful economy anywhere in the world where there wasn’t a free and independent media.

“The link between the two is as strong as tungsten – so its future prosperity, and our ability to trade within it, absolutely requires there to be much more freedom of expression than there is now.

He continued: “If we believe press freedom to be an important and fundamental human right – and we should – then in a global media environment we have to be concerned not just about press freedom in our country, but everywhere. And that vital freedom – the guardian of every other freedom fundamental to a democratic society – has to be fought for constantly.

“It isn’t something that is passed down genetically from one generation to the next – each generation has to fight for it anew in a changing world. What happens to the media in Bangladesh, and Uganda, and Australia, and in Malta should concern us as much as the battles in our own back yard, because today there are no boundaries left in the media.

“That is one of the reasons why those of us in the UK continue to battle so hard against the infamous Section 40 – the threatened law under which we would have to pay the costs of someone bringing a libel action against us even if we win, something which would cripple investigative journalism. We fight it because it’s wrong but also because of the calamitous signal it sends out to the rest of the world, and our friends in the Commonwealth in particular.”

Discussing the role of the CPU, Lord Black continued: “Our purpose is simple – we seek to preserve, enhance and extend press freedom throughout the Commonwealth. Yet that is no easy task when media freedom is under attack in so many parts of the world.

“Of 180 nations in the World Press Freedom Index, only 15 Commonwealth countries make the top 50 – while eleven languish near the bottom. In so many of these countries, state regulation, criminal libel, sedition laws, intimidation and bullying make public debate and freedom of expression well-nigh impossible.

“And all this is completely at odds with the shining commitment in the Commonwealth Charter which offers 2.4 billion people – a third of humanity – a panoramic vision of liberty with free speech and freedom of expression at its heart.”

Praising Astor Award recipient, Ms Caruana Galizia’s investigation into Maltese corruption, Lord Black said: “In death, she proved her case: not least, that Malta was at risk of becoming a Mafia island. But the assassins will have won unless her memory and her campaign to shine a revealing light into the darkest corners of her beloved island continue, undimmed.  

“There has never been a more courageous, nor more deserving, winner of the Astor Award than Daphne Caruana Galizia. The CPU Media Trust is proud to salute her. We hope that this will help to keep aloft and alight the torch of free expression that she bore so bravely against such odds. It would be a truly fitting memorial.”