Reporters Without Borders and English PEN have today (10 January 2018) written to UK Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her to fulfill the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge to repeal the punitive Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. A full year after the consultation on Section 40 closed, there has still been no response to the more than 140,000 submissions received.
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to register our concern over the government’s failure to respond to the consultation on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which closed one year ago today on 10 January 2017. Further, the Conservative Party Manifesto of May 2017 pledged to repeal Section 40, and yet eight months on, no action has been taken to honour that commitment.
Our organisations, English PEN and Reporters Without Borders, drafted a joint submission to the consultation, calling for the repeal of Section 40, which we believe poses a serious threat to press freedom. In our submission, we noted:
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. 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.
Antonia Byatt, Interim Director, English PEN
Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director, Reporters Without Borders