Foreign Secretary Sets Out Vision To Improve Media Freedom

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has described media freedom as “a force for progress” as he set out his vision for improving press freedom across the globe.

Speaking at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day celebrations hosted by the African Union in Addis Ababa, Mr Hunt said some of the best progress in improving media freedoms was taking place in Africa.

“Since the Prime Minister assumed office last year, Ethiopia has climbed the World Press Freedom Index faster than any other country, rising 40 places and showing just how much can be achieved when the political will exists,” Mr Hunt said.

Mr Hunt said a media freedom was catalyst for creativity and  innovation which leads to prosperity. He said: “The argument that a free press is a ‘luxury’ which developing countries might ‘embrace when they are ready’ fundamentally misunderstands the role it plays.

“A free press is quite simply the first secure basis for prosperity in a world where innovation and technological advance are the central conditions for progress.”

Mr Hunt said he wanted Britain to play its part in championing media freedom and that was why he had joined forces with the Canadian government to launch a global campaign to protect journalists doing their job and promote the benefits of a free media.

The campaign will include a Ministerial summit on media freedom in London in July. Mr Hunt added: “Our overriding aim is to shine a spotlight on abuses and raise the price for those who would murder, arrest or detain journalists just for doing their jobs.”

Mt Hunt said another important function of a free press was to provide a channel for people to voice discontent without resorting to violence. When governments close newspapers and suppress the media, they are more likely to be storing up trouble for the future than preserving harmony, he added.

“Far from being a cause of instability, responsible journalism and free media should help to avoid it. Corruption is one of the biggest sources of anger in many countries.

“But far more effective than the crackdowns regularly launched by authoritarian regimes is the sunlight of transparency – just witness the striking overlap between the least corrupt countries in global indices and those with the freest media.”

“And there is no mystery why. Powerful people care about their reputations. They are therefore far less likely to abuse their positions if there is a real risk of exposure.”