Lord Black Condemns Violence Against Journalists

Lord Black of Brentwood highlighted violence against journalists across the globe and questioned the steps being taken to ensure those responsible for the violence were brought to justice in an Oral Question session at the House of Lords.

As chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union and patron of the Rory Peck Trust Lord Black’s question focused on the government of South Sudan concerning the death of Christopher Allen and the government of Malta about the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Lord Ahmad, The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office responded: “My Lords, the United Kingdom condemns violence against journalists in the strongest possible terms. We launched the global campaign for media freedom in partnership with the Canadian Government, in November 2018, to shine a spotlight on media freedom and raise the costs for attacks on journalists. We remain closely engaged with authorities in both South Sudan and Malta on these cases, and are clear that all responsible must be held to account.

Lord Black replied: “I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that, over the last two years, 125 journalists worldwide have been murdered in pursuit of their work, often in direct retaliation for uncovering wrongdoing?

“Shockingly, virtually all these killings have gone unpunished, as democracies around the world fail to properly investigate them and bring perpetrators to justice—a failure which simply fuels further attacks. The brutal murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and UK citizen Christopher Allen in South Sudan in 2017 highlighted the terrible human tragedy of such impunity.

“Does my noble friend agree that it is unacceptable that their families have not received justice? Is it not particularly intolerable that there has been no independent investigation into the vicious killing of Christopher Allen by government soldiers as he did his job bearing witness to conflict? As the Minister says, the Government are laudably committed to protecting journalists around the globe. Should they not live up to that commitment by ensuring justice for these families?”

Lord Ahmad said: “In the instance of Malta, judicial proceedings are under way. Let me assure my noble friend that we are providing full support to the family and have made representations repeatedly to the Maltese Government.

“On the tragic killing of Christopher Allen, I am sure that all noble Lords join me in once again conveying our deepest sympathy to his family. I assure my noble friend that we are working very closely with the United States and continue to press South Sudanese authorities on this case. Most recently, Her Majesty’s ambassador met the South Sudanese Defence Minister and raised the issue, and my colleague, the Minister for Africa, met the family directly.”

Lord Collins of Highbury also drew attention to imprisoned journalists across the globe and questioned the next steps regarding media freedom in the Commonwealth: “As we lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda, just what is he doing to ensure that the commitments he made at that conference are made by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in ensuring media freedom?”

Lord Ahmad said: “There was a follow-up during high-level week where I, together with the Foreign Secretary’s envoy, Amal Clooney, and the Prime Minister of Sudan, launched a side event on this particular issue. We as the UK have committed over £4.5 million to this project and an additional £3 million over five years to the Global Media Defense Fund.

“As the noble Lord will know, we are working directly with the special envoy, Amal Clooney, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, to discuss the legal dimension to the threats that journalists face. He is right to point out that it is about not just journalists who are killed but those journalists who are in prison simply for doing their job.”