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World Press Freedom Day

2012 – Strasbourg: journalists' foe or friend? Media Freedom and the Rule of Law in Europe

This was the theme of the World Press Freedom Day Debate to held on 3 May. Chaired by Clive Anderson, the first speaker was FCO Minister Jeremy Browne(video).

The UK section of the AEJ was a co-organiser of this event. William Horsley opened the discussion and Tim Large, Editor of Thomson Reuters Foundation News Services, closed. William Horsley's opening words can be read below.

The debate was held at the Thomson-Reuters Building in London and organised by the UK Press Freedom Network (including the AEJ) and the UK Society of Editors, in association with the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

Those taking part were:

Jeremy Browne, FCO Minister (video)

Debate, chaired by Clive Anderson

Lord Fowler

Geoffrey Robertson QC

Bob Satchwell

Aidan White

Closing: Tim Large, Editor of Thomson Reuters Foundation News Services

Video, including the roll-call of 121 killed journalists, Jeremy Browne's address and the debate

Synopsis of ECHR judgments involving UK journalists

Coverage of the many events staged by AEJ sections across Europe in 2012 appears on the AEJ's international website, with updates on its News page.

2011 – Arab Spring: the freedom to report

This was the topic of the UK public debate to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. The speakers were

Mark Thompson, Managing Editor Multimedia, Thomson Reuters

Shahira Amin, journalist and former TV presenter for Nile TV, Egypt

Alanoud Al Sharekh, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Middle East

Magdi Abdelhadi, broadcaster and Middle East commentator

Hannah Storm, International News Safety Institute (INSI)

Maria Golovnina, Reuters

Mohammed Abbas, Reuters

Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera English correspondent

William Horsley, Chair

Minister of State the Rt Hon Jeremy Browne MP also sent a personal video message for the event

See the blog by AEJ member Jonathan Fryer

2010 – Unregulated political comment

At the World Press Freedom Day debate on 9 April, the motion, “Unregulated political comment online helps the democratic process”, was approved by 40 votes to 15 (1 abstention). It was agreed that online journalism and political blogging will be good for the fair conduct of the UK general election.

The debaters were:

Sir Robert Worcester, MORI/Ipsos Group; University of Kent

Sunny Hundal, founder of the Liberal Conspiracy blog

Caroline Thomson, Chief Operating Officer, BBC

Professor Steven Barnett, University of Westminster

Paul Bradshaw, Birmingham City University

Nicholas Jones, author, ex-BBC

William Horsley took the chair

Video and other material (UNESCO UK)

Links to the WPFD activities of other AEJ sections in 2010 can be found on theinternational website

Hannah Marshall won the 2010 World Press Freedom Day Student Journalism Competition. She is an MA student studying Media at Southampton Solent University. Her article can be read on UNESCO's website.

2009 – Truth in the media is a casualty of war

Journalists in London voted by more than two to one for the motion that "Governments at war are winning the battle of controlling the international media". The debate at the Frontline Club on 1 May, moderated by AEJ UK chairman William Horsley, included a frank account by senior NATO official Dr Jamie Shea of how western governments managed to set the agenda for what journalists reported in the 1999 Kosovo war. Conflicts in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Gaza, Sudan, Congo and Russia-Georgia were also cited in the debate.

Speaking for the motion were Andrew Gilligan, Evening Standard, and Jamie Shea, NATO. Opposing it were Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera, and Jeremy Dear, NUJ.

Annabel Symington won the 2009 student journalism prize.

2008 – New media is killing journalism

This debate was held at the Frontline Club on 2 May. Andrew Keen and Kim Fletcher spoke for the motion, and Robin Lustig and Nazenin Ansari against. William Horsley took the chair.

The uncertainty that the profession faces due to the economics of online publication was a recurring theme throughout the wide-ranging and at times impassioned discussion. In the end, faith in the survival of journalism and its values triumphed. The motion was defeated by more than three to one (13 to 45 with four abstentions).

Two of the speakers – Nazenin Ansari and Andrew Keen – filed contributions toGuardian Online, and Andrew Keen's "I came to bury journalists but in the end I could only praise them" was published in The Independent on 19 May 2008.

2007 – World media freedom is in retreat

This motion was endorsed by 57 votes in favour of the motion to 18 against. The vote reflected concerns about new restrictive laws on the media in many countries and the growing numbers of journalists worldwide who have been killed, injured, threatened or jailed because of their profession.



The UK Section of the AEJ is part of the UK Press Freedom Network of 20 journalistic and human rights bodies. The day has been marked until recently by a public debate on or about 3 May.

This used to be organised by UNESCO’s UK National Commission, but UK government support for this was withdrawn.

On 2 May 2013, the UK Section supported the NUJ's meeting on solidarity with Turkish journalists. This was part of a campaign organised by the European Federation of Journalists.

William Horsley, as AEJ Media Freedom Representative, presented a paper on fighting impunity for crimes of violence against journalists at UNESCO's WPFD meeting, held in Costa Rica on 2-4 May. See also William's blog, Europe guilty too as World Press Freedom Day targets growing threats to journalists.

Activities organised by other AEJ sections are noted on the international website.

Welcome and opening remarks to the 2012 World Press Freedom Day Debate by William Horsley


A very warm welcome to this public debate marking World Press Freedom Day. I’m William Horsley, one of the team who’ve worked for what seems like many weeks to prepare for this event. Special mention to Tim Gopsill who put together the information packs you have on yours seats, and to Anthony Longden and Colin Bickler.

I’ll be brief. Thomson Reuters Foundation has generously given us the use of this fine auditorium, and help from your fine people to stage the debate and the reception that will follow. The BBC College of Journalism is recording us, and the video will be posted soon afterwards on the BBC CoJo Channel on Youtube. Vital sponsorship has come from several well-known media organisations, as you see on screen. The event is held in association with the UK National Commission for UNESCO. And we have had the guiding hand of the Society of Editors, representing the big guns and the infantry of the nation’s news media.

We have brought together a high-powered panel. In a few moments they will lead this evening’s debate, under the expert conductor’s baton of Clive Anderson, of the BBC’s Unreliable Evidence and many other programmes.

First, on behalf of the UK Press Freedom Network of journalists and freedom of expression groups, we have a short tribute and a ministerial message.

The International News Safety Institute, based in this building , keeps careful count of the journalists worldwide who die on assignment. Over the past 12 months, INSI has established that at least 121 journalists or media workers have died. Of them, 95 are known or suspected to have been deliberately targeted and killed because of their work – including, of course, many during the Arab Spring uprisings and in Syria this year. I’d like to ask you if possible now to stand to pay respect to those who have died.

Thank you. Now to the matter in hand. We invited a government representative to come and take part in this debate, because as we are all keenly aware, issues surrounding media freedom and the law – and the relationship with government power – are now hotly contested and possibly in flux, here and abroad.

As many of you know, UNESCO took the lead in drawing up a UN Action Plan on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, involving every part of the UN family, its headquarters and field missions. The UN badly needs the active support of the UK government and of the world’s leading media to make that plan work and reduce the number of journalists, many of them locals employed from London or New York, who are silenced by targeted killings or being jailed on trumped up charges by repressive governments – often because they reported on issues of corruption or abuse of power.

Many of us see that as one very powerful reason for the UK to refrain from pulling out of UNESCO, as the government itself has raised as a possibility, as early as next year.

The UK’s plans for reform of the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg have divided opinion too, as we shall hear. A number of other European states, including Austria, stood out against some of the UK’s original proposals on the grounds they could curtail human rights by restricting access to the court.

Those are all legitimate and necessary points for open debate – and for more government transparency. In fact, what we have received for today is a recorded video message to this meeting from the British Foreign Office Minister for Human Rights, Jeremy Browne, which we can now see. Straight after the minister’s message, it’s over to Clive Anderson for the main event. Thank you!