Reporters Without Borders and English PEN have jointly written to Theresa May to request the urgent repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which would chill reporting and undermine the “essential role of the press in our democracy.”
In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, the organisations cited the pledge in the Conservative Party manifesto for the May election to repeal the legislation which publishers and media bodies including the News Media Association believe poses a dangerous threat to free speech.
“Section 40 would introduce an unprecedented chilling effect for publishers and journalists in the UK, leading to self-censorship and a reduction in public interest reporting,” Antonia Byatt, interim director, English PEN, and Rebecca Vincent, UK bureau director, Reporters Without Borders, said.
“The essential role of the press in our democracy would therefore be undermined, as well as the scope for any writer to investigate matters of concern and national interest for the public.”
“We note that the continued presence of Section 40 is one of many current threats to press freedom in the UK. It is part of a worrying trend that resulted in the UK dropping to 40th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index, published in April 2017, and there has been further deterioration since then.
“We urge you to take immediate action to fulfil the Conservative Party’s pledge to repeal Section 40, and to ensure a timely response to the more than 140,000 stakeholders who engaged in good faith in the consultation of last year. Eliminating the threat posed by Section 40 would be a step in the right direction towards improving the UK’s worrying press freedom record.”