Welcome! It’s wonderful to see you all here this evening for this - our third annual media reception. I’m actually delighted to see so many friends and contacts from media, the government, civil society all with us here tonight. It is hard to believe that it has been a year since we launched our media freedom campaign in this room.
I think since then, we’ve succeeded in forming a broad and powerful coalition- all of us very, very committed to defending media freedom so thank you all very much for everything that you have done and are continuing to do with us. Maraming salamat.
Our efforts here in the Philippines echo globally as the United Kingdom with the Government of Canada has been taking forward a global media freedom campaign. Our conference in London in July last year brought together foreign ministers, media advocates, journalists, civil society from around the world to tackle the pressures which are bearing down on media freedom now.
Since then, the UK has launched the Media Freedom Coalition, a coalition of like-minded countries now numbering 36 who have all committed to defend media freedom globally. They are working on a number of practical interventions to achieve that: For example, a response mechanism which will help us address new and existing cases where journalists are under threat.
We are also working with Amal Clooney, the international human rights lawyer, who is working as our Special Envoy on Media Freedom. With her international panel of legal experts, they are developing instruments, which will help government repeal outdated or restrictive legislation.
Inspired by the brilliant work that International Media Support has started here in the Philippines, we are working with the International Task Force, UNESCO, OSCE, and the Open Government Partnership. We are supporting the crafting of national action plans across the world to help improve their local media freedom environment.
But there’s no space to be complacent. This past year has been a year of ups and downs for media freedom.
Here in the Philippines, we welcome the justice received by the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre after many, many years of litigation. But we cannot be blind to the fact that around the world the media continues to experience forms of threats and harassment- threats of ownership, threats of people in power, absence of training and institutional support for journalism, unwarranted interference, misinformation, disinformation, mal-information, physical threats unforeseen dangers, and, tragically, in some cases, death.
The latest Freedom House Report shows that the situation is deteriorating around the world in many of the strongest democracies in the world. So the reality remains that over the past decade, media freedom has been in a state of decline and attacks against the media in various forms continue.
So our work, my government’s work, our work in this room continues, must continue, and will continue relentlessly.
In the coming year, we will see another Global Media Freedom conference held in October by our Canadian partners. The work of the Media Freedom Coalition will go from strength to strength as they build more links with governments around the world to improve the media environment. We will also be launching, in partnership with UNESCO, the Global Media Defence Fund, which will support the provision of legal advice to journalists around the world including through their training. Amal Clooney’s international panel will publish a best practice handbook and she will continue as our special envoy to promote media freedom around the world.
Here, my fantastic team in the Embassy will continue to support the work of human rights defenders, media advocates, and NGOs. We remain totally committed to supporting the implementation of the National Action Plan with IMS and JSAG (International Media Support and Journalist Safety Action Group).
We also will work hard to continue to encourage great Filipino candidates for our brand new, prestigious Media Freedom Chevening Scholarship that will give people unique opportunities to experience the issues around media freedom through the British Higher Education System. Our current and first media freedom Chevening scholar is Rowena Caranan, she is currently studying her Master’s at Cardiff University in Data Journalism. Previously, she worked for the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism.
With the British Council and Future News, we will also be supporting over a hundred aspiring campus journalists globally as they come together for an international conference in London this June.
Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, we will continue to play our part in the public debate of these issues. We will speak up to defend the principles of democracy and media freedom. We will not step back from doing our bit to uphold human rights. And we will continue, in partnership with yourselves, to create safe spaces for discussion. And where we see harassment, we will call it out and stand up. As we’ve seen, harassment can take many forms, sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is very, very obvious.
These are that goals that we set and we intend to achieve in the coming year. But this is a partnership. We are a coalition. My embassy, on its own, can only achieve a fraction of what we all, working together, can achieve. So I’m looking forward to what will be a year of continuing progress, great success.
There will be challenges and sometimes we will fail but if you give me a quote from Sir Winston Churchill, as he said, and it’s appropriate for this evening, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
And on these questions of media freedom, freedom of expression, at the very, very heart of our democracies, I can promise you that we will continue to pursue our objectives. And where we suffer failure, where we come up against challenges, we will be twice as strong and twice as determined to overcome them.