Summer 2021 harassment and pressurising of a leading BBC journalist by anti-lockdown protestors in London’s Whitehall, just around the corner from 10 Downing Street, is one of the latest examples of mob menace to free speech.
Another type of bullying, of just as much concern, is the boycott of television press agency GB News by multinationals such as Ikea and Nivea and other household names that include Specsavers and Money Supermarket.
They allege that this news channel founded by veteran BBC presenter and former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neill “is promoting hatred”. GB News has fallen foul of what many observers consider to be the extreme left, opposed to its editorial policies and working at destruction through persuading advertisers to withdraw their cash.
Andrew Neill is quoted as saying: “The only hate this channel has broadcast was when we showed film of a BBC Newsnight reporter being attacked by a baying anti-lockdown mob. And we condemn that unreservedly.”
Apparently, the campaign against GB News is the work of a group calling itself Stop Funding Hate. They have spread their anti-press campaign to call on advertisers to stop spending in The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express, accusing these organs of misleading reporting.
Writing for the Press Gazette, Dominic Ponsford has lambasted Stop Funding Hate and its campaigners for encouraging people to influence the content of newspapers they don’t read themselves, adding concerns about advertisers pressuring for changes to that same content, whether or not in the public interest.
The Daily Mail’s response has been that the campaign is led by hard-left Corbynists seeking to suppress legitimate debate and impose their views on the media.
Sadly, journalists face far more than harassment. Around the world, enemies of press freedom include numerous governments, terrorist organisations and international crime, prepared to use death, violence and imprisonment to remove media criticism of their activities.
The UK’s Chartered Institute of Journalists has always been to the fore in campaigning for democratic protection of its members and others engaged in news gathering and assimilation. It is a standard bearer and long may it continue in that vein.
The press as an entity is anything but perfect, yet it is a foundation stone of liberty. The benefits of press freedom (with responsibility) belong to ordinary people as much as to institutions.