NUJ calls for swift action to protect UK-based journalists under threat

  • 20 Feb 2023

The National Union of Journalists has called on the government and police to act swiftly and robustly to secure the safety of journalists working across the UK and to defend media freedom

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, called for efforts to be stepped up to support those media outlets impacted to protect staff and freelance contributors. She said:

“Whilst an understandable short-term measure, the answer to grave threats from Iran – or any other despotic regime – cannot be to say that output from the UK should be halted, that journalists should remain a prisoner in their own home, or that journalists should not be free to travel and go about their lives.

“We know that there have been threats to kidnap journalists off the streets of London. NUJ members working in London have had assets in Iran seized. They have endured the agony of their families being weaponised and harassed. They have been subjected to barrages of online abuse and threats. This places individuals and their families under inordinate daily pressure. As the domestic pressures have ramped up in Iran, so has that regime’s interest in closing down the scrutiny and attention that independent journalism and reporting brings and deterring the work that journalists do day in day out.

“Such behaviour and threats cannot be tolerated, this cannot be allowed to happen with impunity, and those who threaten journalists and journalism should not be allowed to achieve the outcomes they seek.

“The NUJ wants to see practical measures put in place by the UK government that provide appropriate security and guidance is provided to all affected journalists, whether they are employees or freelances, with guarantees of sufficient funding that police and employers can do this swiftly and properly.

“The NUJ also wants assurances that sufficient government resources are being dedicated to properly equip counter-terrorism teams tasked with addressing this unique threat against UK-based journalists.  London is an international hub for journalism with reporting created here broadcast around the globe, around the clock. If news platforms do not feel safe or cannot carry out their work effectively they will vote with their feet – damaging an important part of our economy and undermining the UK’s reputation as a haven for journalism and for free speech.”

Iran International said acting on advice from the police, it had closed its London  TV studios because of an escalation of threats against its journalists. Staff were told to work from home, and the broadcaster said it would continue output from its Washington DC site, while Afghanistan International TV would broadcast as normal from the London studios.

 The NUJ, together with the IFJ,  are campaigning for the protection of journalists and their families at Iran International and BBC Persian who have been subject to harassment and intimidation from the Iranian authorities. This has escalated since the recent protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

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