BBC warns of 'unprecedented threat' to independent news

It is vital that all authorities protect the rights of journalists to report freely and when they meet death in the line of that duty, the authorities must investigate fully to ensure that those who seek to curtail journalistic freedom are deterred."Peter Horrocks, Director, BBC Global News
Date: 06.07.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.56
The BBC has today warned of an ‘unprecedented global threat to impartial and independent news’ and called on relevant authorities worldwide to protect the rights of journalists to report freely.

The call follows news from the International Press Institute last week, which has said this year is shaping up to be the most deadly ever for international reporters with 72 journalists killed so far in 2012.

In his speech in Moscow today, Peter Horrocks highlighted a number of deaths including those of Russian journalists.

He said: “We have seen an unprecedented threat to impartial and independent news from around the world. Journalists have faced threats to their lives, censorship through intimidation or faced terror charges in their search for alternative voices.

“These challenges have never been so severe or varied, as the shocking deaths of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik in Syria have shown. Here in Russia, who can forget the killing of Anna Politkovskaya or other journalists from Novaya Gazeta and other publications who were also killed in the pursuit of their work? Last year we lost BBC reporter in Afghanistan who died doing his job."

He added that it was not just physical intimidation and danger that journalism faces highlighting ‘jamming’ of satellites by authorities in Iran and China.

Peter Horrocks said: “Technological interference also prevents free journalism reaching its audiences. As a global community of broadcasters and journalists, we should strongly condemn these acts of censorship and harassment and urge the abandonment of these restrictive practices.

“And all countries should open their airwaves to allow citizens to hear the views from other countries. In the UK channels such as RT (Russia Today) and CCTV from China are available. That freedom should be reciprocated.”

In a wide-ranging speech, Peter Horrocks also talked about changing face of journalism worldwide and the digital transformation of the BBC’s international news services.

He said: “The international news media is going through a revolution that puts the audience in charge. It is a convulsion that is testing every news organisation. With the web, social interactivity and globalisation, news brands are in a battle for attention and trust. Despite being the longest established global broadcaster, the BBC believes it can succeed just as well in this new world, because of its long-lasting values and its readiness to modernise.”

“The BBC World Service has recently undergone a process of major reorganisation. It has brought the BBC World Service fully into the digital age. Language services such as BBC Russian, BBC Mundo and BBC Chinese became online only operations. At the same time we remain totally committed to serving the substantial audiences receiving us on traditional shortwave radio.

“For example, the BBC Russian Service's website has more than doubled in size in the last year to 1.9 million. Already our investments in new platforms have led to an increase in our audience figures – 239 million around the world, up from 225million last year.

“The increase has been driven primarily by our coverage of the Arab spring. BBC Persian TV has doubled its reach in Iran to 6 million, despite facing a campaign of intimidation and censorship by the Iranian authorities. This is the kind of censorship and intimidation that a Media Summit such as this should unite to deplore.”

Note to Editors

Peter Horrocks full speech is available here

Jessica Culshaw - Jessica.Culshaw@bbc.co.uk | + 44 7718 696 636