NUJ welcomes the launch of a national action plan to protect journalists

  • 09 Mar 2021

The union said the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists’ plan was an important step towards ensuring journalists can carry out their work free from harassment and attack. It was launched with cross-party support.

Following a survey of members last year, which found that more than half of respondents had experienced online abuse and nearly a quarter had been physically assaulted or attacked, the NUJ called for action to halt the rising instances of harassment and abuse, both on and off-line. The union also highlighted the disproportionate abuse aimed at women and black and minority ethnic journalists.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary and member of the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, said:

“Attacks on journalists are designed to silence and intimidate those who work to uphold the public’s right to know. NUJ members have shared horrific experiences of being attacked, abused and threatened – on and offline – simply for doing their job. It’s clear that reported incidents are the tip of the iceberg and that harassment and abuse has become normalised.

“This action plan, with its range of practical measures and protections, is an important step towards changing that and ensuring journalists can get on with their vital work free from harassment or intimidation.” 

“We want more journalists to come forward and report harassment and abuse and welcome the police and prosecutorial services pledges to take these cases seriously as it is vital that those who threaten and harass journalists are brought to justice and dealt with appropriately and robustly.”

Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, said:

"At a time when attacks and threats against journalists are on the rise, we welcome this national action plan which has the potential to offer greater protection to journalists. Frontline media professionals have a vital role to play in scrutinising the decisions of government, in holding power to account. For too long journalists have had to endure threats and intimidation for doing their job – online and off-line. With political will and commitment this plan can be a turning point, enabling them to better serve citizens. We applaud the NUJ for its strong work and determination in making it happen.”

The plan sets out a range of measures designed to ensure freelance and staff journalists are protected and supported. It calls on platforms to do more to stamp out online abuse, and on the criminal justice system to ensure those who attack and threaten journalists are brought to justice.

The Home Office will launch a call for evidence intended to more clearly understand the scale of the problem. The NUJ will be a key partner in rolling out the work within the action plan, including developing an online tool kit for journalists and an annual survey to track progress.

The plan puts various pieces of work in train.  It says:

  • The NUJ, Society of Editors and others will engage closely with UK police representatives and the National Council for the Training of Journalists  (NCTJ) to review their training offer on police operations.
  • The NUJ, Society of Editors and others will work with DCMS to explore the possibility of an emergency safety fund for journalists under immediate threat of harm.
  • The NCTJ will provide safety training for student journalists while the NUJ and Society of Editors will collate and host a free online support pack for journalists.
  • Employers will be required to  provide safety training for staff and freelancers  and establish designated safety officers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“Freedom of speech and a free press are at the very core of our democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened. The cowardly attacks and abuse directed at reporters for simply doing their job cannot continue. This action plan is just the start of our work to protect those keeping the public informed, and defend those holding the government to account.”


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