2018 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Freedom of the Media, Session 5:
“Worst Practice” against independent media in Britain
Intervention read by Henrik Clausen, representing Wiener Akademikerbund
Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for uploading this video:
Below is the prepared text for Mr. Clausen’s intervention:
Working Session 5: “Worst Practice” against independent media in Britain
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen. I am Henrik Clausen, Danish, representing Wiener Akademikerbund in Austria.
When we consider the Rule of Law, we are living in challenging times, not least West of Vienna. And while we prefer to focus on Best Practices, I need to point out an example of the opposite, in order to prevent such events in the future.
On May 25th of this year, a journalist was arrested outside of Leeds Crown Court for reporting on a high-profile court case about forced prostitution of minors. In the course of just five hours, and without access to legal support, he was sentenced to 13 months in prison and jailed immediately. Independent legal experts have called this an “Assault on Freedom of Expression”.
The conditions of imprisonment were unlike anything one would expect in a modern society: Exposed to hostile inmates, the journalist lived in fear of beating, poisoning, and at times under grossly unhygienic circumstances. I shall not go into the unpleasant details here, of course.
One should think that prison officers observing such situations would speak up against them. Indeed, that was the case. Mr. McAlpine spoke up — unfortunately, this led only to the dismissal of the officer. Whistleblowers everywhere deserve immunity, not pink slips.
We have an old Danish saying: “Freedom for Loki as well as for Thor”. This means that also those whom we may suspect of less-than-noble intentions are free, until they commit actual crimes. And critical voices are needed; they are to be heeded, not to be silenced in jail under torturous conditions.
Fortunately, in this specific case, public outrage caught on, and the torturous prison conditions were brought to an end. We have confidence that the final verdict will favour freedom of the media, and that such events will not be repeated in the future.
To help prevent this, Wiener Akademikerbund recommends:
- That OSCE pS reduce or abolish restrictions on reporting, to minimize abuse.
- That jailed journalists be held in safe conditions, protected from dangerous inmates.
- And that prison personnel be granted immunity when reporting on unjust treatment.
For links to previous articles about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, see the OSCE Archives.