Lyra McKee murder 'underscores need for urgent attention' as UK falls two places in RSF 2020 World Press Freedom Index

The press freedom lobby Reporters sans frontières (RSF) has cited the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry last year as a factor in the United Kingdom slipping two places in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
The UK's ranking in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.The UK's ranking in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
The UK's ranking in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

The UK dropped from 33 to 35 on the RSF index and ranks lower than Lativa, Namibia, Lithuania, Cape Verde, Ghana, South Africa, Slovenia and Slovakia in terms of press freedom according to Paris headquartered non-profit organisation.

Announcing the new rankings on Tuesday, RSF stated: "Despite the UK co-hosting a Global Conference for Media Freedom and assuming the role of co-chair of the new Media Freedom Coalition, the UK’s domestic press freedom record remained cause for concern throughout 2019.

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"The killing of journalist Lyra McKee whilst observing rioting in Derry in April, and continued threats to journalists covering paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, underscored the need for urgent attention to the safety of journalists; however there was no apparent progress towards the establishment of a National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and a National Action Plan on Safety of Journalists as announced by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in July."

RSF associated the murder of Ms. McKee with those of other European journalists over recent years.

"Reporters have even lost their lives in the course of their work, as in the case of journalist Lyra McKee from Northern Ireland, who was shot dead as she covered rioting in the city of Derry. Her death was the third murder of a journalist in Europe in three years, after those of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Ján Kuciak in Slovakia," it said.

The 2020 index ranked Ireland as 13th globally in terms of press freedom. That is up two places from last year.

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RSF said "the highly concentrated nature of media ownership remained the largest threat to press freedom in Ireland."

It further claimed that "frequent defamation suits and the extraordinarily high damages awarded by Irish courts also posed a significant threat to press freedom".

Equally, it complained that "interviewing police sources has been virtually impossible since the Garda Síochana Act of 2005, which bans police officers from talking to journalists without prior authorisation".


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