Human Rights Organization Issues Press Freedom Alert Over UK Government's Refusal To Speak To Critical Journalists

from the skin-so-thin-these-days dept

The UK government is fine with press freedom as long as the press confines itself to the unwritten guidelines the government uses to restrict it. Publish too many leaked documents? Well, the government will show up and destroy your computer equipment. Report on the wrong stuff? The government will kick you out of Parliament and tell you not to talk about why you've been kicked out. Publish names of people targeted by UK government investigations in the Land of the First Amendment and across the pond from the UK? Expect a UK court to issue a ruling telling you to abide by laws that don't govern the country you're actually publishing in.

The UK government is again stepping on free press toes. And human rights organizations have noticed. Independent journalism outfit Declassified UK was recently told its journalistic services were no longer required… or would at least no longer be respected by the Ministry of Defence.

The UK government has been formally warned for threatening press freedom after it blacklisted a group of investigative journalists and denied them access to information.

The Council of Europe issued the Level 2 "media freedom alert" after Ministry of Defence press officers refused to deal with Declassified UK, a website focusing on foreign and defence policy stories.

As the Independent reports, this aligns the UK government with Russia and Turkey, which received similar alerts recently for, respectively, beating and jailing journalists critical of their governments.

Here's the chain of events that led to the Level 2 alert, as reported by Marcela Kunova of journalism.co.uk.

On 25 August, Declassify UK journalist Phil Miller contacted the MoD’s press office to request a comment about the arrest of Ahmed al Babati, a serving soldier, near Downing Street for protesting the United Kingdom’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen.

Miller was promised information at first but the press office later called him to enquire about the publication’s editorial coverage of the conflict.

"What sort of angle have you taken on the war in Yemen?” the MoD spokesperson asked.

[...]

Not long after, Miller received an email telling him that the MoD was not going to send him anything that day, but that he should "submit an FOI [Freedom of Information request] for anything that you require".

[...]

When Miller enquired with his contact at the press office, he was told: "My understanding from the office is that we no longer deal with your publication."

Declassified UK feels this blacklisting is the result of its earlier reporting on questionable Ministry of Defence activities, like training Saudi pilots who were involved with bombings of civilians in Yemen.

It's not just the Council of Europe that's noticed the UK government's decision to refuse to respond to journalists it apparently doesn't care for. The International Press Institute has sent a letter to MoD officials criticizing the agency for its actions.

It goes without saying that the exclusion of a media publication by a government ministry due to its investigative reporting would undermine press freedom and set a worrying precedent for other journalists whose job it is to report in the public interest on the British military.

Criticism should be no reason to discriminate against a media publication. In contrast, tough journalism by outlets such as Declassified UK on matters such as the UK’s foreign and military affairs, uncomfortable though it often may be for those in power, is crucial for a transparent and functioning democracy.

The letter also asks for "clarification" on the decision by the MoD's press office. Presumably, no explanation will be provided. If anything, the MoD will just go back to handing out "no comments" to Declassified UK, rather than call any more attention to itself by cutting the independent journalists out of the minimal info loop.

But, for now, the MoD has aligned itself with Russia and Turkey. It may not be demanding the jailing/beating of critics (at least, not out loud), but it's shown it's unwilling to handle criticism like a free world government agency.

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Filed Under: blacklisting, free speech, freedom of speech, press freedom, uk
Companies: declassify uk


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  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 17 Sep 2020 @ 3:55am

    Boris Johnson hid in a fridge to avoid questions so this should come as a surprise to nobody. Unfortunately conservatives control the majority of the press in the UK so nobody will probably notice there's an embargo on any outlet that will ask difficult questions, not while Phillip Schofield and co will give them softball interviews and pose for selfies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2020 @ 6:21am

    and how many countries, including the USA, are doing the same thing? it's happening everywhere! governments are using any and every excuse plus whatever security services they want to not just remove peoples rights, to literally destroy them! yep, here's the conspiracy theory again but all this crap started with the 'purposefully started 'financial crisis'. since then, so many countries are behaving just like those countries that tried to instill similar things and were fought against in WWII, now we're just sitting back, thumbs up bums, brains in neutral and watching everything we hold dear, privacy, freedom etc get trampled underfoot! it's gonna be a Planet run by a few self proclaimed, self-serving, selfish slave masters and once in, with all the security forces backing them, we wont be able to do a damn thing about it, even if we want to!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2020 @ 6:51am

      Re:

      You sound depressed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2020 @ 8:00am

        Re: Re:

        And you sound like you're asleep. Everyone concerned about freedom should be worried about the steps these conservative governments continue to take to poke holes in the freedom of the press.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2020 @ 6:41pm

      Re:

      Exactly. Protest at the hollow, shallow veneration of the Poppy and how meaningless it has become, when people are scared by 'terror' into giving up their right to digital privacy. Funny thing is, that old-fashioned HUMINT (Human Intelligence) would have stopped the London Bridge attacker, or one of them. Someone noticed the extremism and reported him, but it wasn't taken seriously. Either they are obsessed to a FAULT with digital spying, which is one step forwards, one step backwards, OR they are too busy taking the wholesale spying on ALL citizens to keep the 'Goyim' in their invisible prison too seriously instead. Which they require terrorism to OCCASIONALLY actually happen, in order to keep the people scared enough to give up their rights. See also: Omagh bombing, and subsequent peace in N.Ireland.
      OK, am I exaggerating? As if it's not Zionists or some other form of NWO world Gov, who is it? The surname of the GCHQ head is Levy. Statistically-insignificant coincidence? Maybe.
      But whilst this is going on near-universally around the world? Maybe not so unimportant.
      Since Labour was some sort of threat to the Tory Human Rights-Abuse coup and SUDDENLY their purported Anti-Semitism is important to hype-up, THIS YEAR, whereas it wasn't two years ago or whatever. That Panorama interview session with the 'victims' was a bunch of actors without emotions and logical fallacies. Fake as hell.
      IF Corbyn was too anti-semitic, vote Labour in, then change the leadership - it's the PARTY we vote in, not the leader's haircut!
      But this idiot country had to be manipulated via LACK OF PRIVACY IN SOCIAL MEDIA LEADING TO PERFECT PSYCHOMETRICS GATHERING AND THUS PERFECT PSYCHOLOGICAL-POLITICAL-MANIPULATION.
      Social Media users who don't care about Democracy, and trust blindly, are a lot of the problem. ALL of them (bar the few privacy-enabled platforms out there, which are tiny in comparison).

      Etc: https://www.wired.com/story/political-ads-arent-the-problem-facebooks-algorithms-are/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2020 @ 6:43pm

        Re: Re:

        Typo, sorry I meant: "Protest at the hollow, shallow veneration of the Poppy and how meaningless it has become AND YOU WILL BE OSTRACISED EVEN IF YOU ARE THE ONE RESPECTING WHAT THE SERVICEMEN DIED FOR (and mostly men at that, note!)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jigsy, 17 Sep 2020 @ 9:59pm

    This isn't totally surprising. It's a country that doesn't believe international law applies to it, after all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Sep 2020 @ 2:32am

      Re:

      But only in a specific and limited way!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2020 @ 6:52pm

      Re:

      Except the universally-panned proven-wrong War on Drugs International Law, aka the apparently perpetual-binding treaty known as the Single UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.
      You know, the (non-evidence-based thus repeating its mistakes for 50 years despite the evidence that it doesn't work, is literally the definition of mental illness), law, that says Cannabis and Heroin are to be considered the same category of danger... This law? That pushes mental illness as policy, whilst purporting to protect people from psychosis causing cannabis?
      The treaty, administrated by the USA-based UN Narcotics CONTROL Board (hint hint) from a Big Pharma-dominated country with an Opioids crisis and confusion about the legal status of cannabis. All due to Federal culture being in thrall to some sort of control-freak worldwide agenda (spot the recurrent theme here?)
      Theresa May had to increase the criminal penalties for Khat whilst she was Home Secretary, and in only ONE article, right at the bottom, right at the end of her explanation on the subject, like an afterthought, was the TRUTH mentioned: "and our international treaty obligations". This was after a bunch of lies about how 'dangerous' a mild stimulant like Khat was... Like they give a toss about our Somalian Khat-chewing minority's health that much! I guess it dents Ritalin sales in theory, so Big Pharma fear it?!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kikukevin (profile), 19 Sep 2020 @ 2:06am

    How To Secure Your Gmail Account?

    nice post

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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