UK: Politicians must stop attacking journalists

The IFJ today backed calls by its UK affiliate, the NUJ, on government ministers and all politicians to stop traducing journalists and media outlets following comments by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, leader of the House of Commons.

Britain's Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg. Credits: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

Rees-Mogg accused HuffPost's deputy political editor of being "either a knave or a fool" and claimed that media coverage about the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab MP, was "shockingly distorted by low-quality journalism," adding: "It’s a very cheap level of journalism, it’s not a proper way to behave."

This follows on from leaked Whatsapp messages last week in which the secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock MP, described The Guardian newspaper as a "rag.”

In January, the government's equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, turned to Twitter to accuse another HuffPost journalist of "creepy and bizarre" behaviour in comments that have been widely condemned and represent a breach of the Ministerial Code.

Earlier this month the government launched a National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists, which states one of the government's priorities is to "improve public recognition of the value of journalists."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “It beggars belief that government ministers are smearing and impugning journalists in this way, indulging in outrageous behaviour that demeans them and the offices they hold. This same government, including the Prime Minister and other ministers, have committed time and resources to tackling the growing problem of abuse and harassment which is compromising the safety of journalists across the UK. Yet here we have colleagues around the cabinet table acting like playground bullies, undermining the work of journalists, bringing their work into disrepute, and dishing out insults that are clearly designed to further inflame harassment and abuse online. It’s not acceptable to dismiss reporting you don’t like as fake news. It’s completely unacceptable to resort to insults and personal smears of journalists simply trying to get on with their job. Our elected politicians should be committed to improving the parlous level of public discourse, not further polluting it. This behaviour has to stop, the government must get a grip and put its commitments  to improving the recognition and value of journalists and journalism into practice.”

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "The UK government stands at the head of the Media Freedom Coalition and it is imperative it sets an example and does not resort to targeting and insulting journalists and media simply because it does not like their reporting. Such actions undermine media freedom and do little to enhance public debate".

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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