Global media freedom ‘a universal cause’, says British Foreign Secretary

Jeremy Hunt will say that free press protects society from power abuse

Jeremy Hunt, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party, attends Britain's Next Prime Minister: The ITV Debate at MediaCityUK in Salford, Britain July 9, 2019. Matt Frost/ITV/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?
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Global media freedom is a “universal cause”, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will say today at a Foreign Office conference in London co-hosted with the Canadian government.

The Global Conference for Media Freedom, taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, will welcome delegations from more than 100 countries, including 60 ministers, and at least 1,500 journalists, academics and campaigners.

During a keynote speech at the conference, Mr Hunt will say: “Today we send a strong message that media freedom is not a Western but a universal value… At its best, a free media both protects society from the abuse of power and helps to release the full potential of a country.”

Mr Hunt will argue that the “strongest safeguard against the dark side of power is accountability and scrutiny” provided by a free media.

He will say: “The open exchange of ideas through a free media allows the genius of a society to breathe, releasing the originality and creativity of the entire population. Societies which embrace free debate make a disproportionate contribution to the advance of human knowledge.”

Mr Hunt is expected to point out that the 10 nations worldwide with the most media freedom have produced 120 Nobel Laureates between them. Norwegians alone have won 13 Nobel Prizes.

“With great respect to my Norwegian friends, they are no more pioneering or inventive than anyone else,” he will say. “They have flourished because their open society and free media – ranked the freest in the world – have created the very best setting for their talents to thrive.”

He will also argue that the global struggle against corruption is enhanced by a free media, saying that of the most transparent countries in the world, seven are in the top 10 of the World Press Freedom Index.

“Meanwhile, of the 10 most corrupt countries, four appear in the bottom 10 for media freedom,” he will say.

Speaking ahead of the conference, its co-host, the Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said: “A free press is the cornerstone of any democratic society and essential for the protection and promotion of human rights. I look forward to two days of in-depth conversations on the current state of media freedom and on the practical steps we can take to bring about positive change in our own countries and around the world.”