Update (19 June 2020): We welcome the news that John Whittingdale MP, Minister of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has invited Amy Fenton to address the UK’s new National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and discuss whether new legislation and guidelines need to be implemented.
PEN condemns the threats made against British journalist Amy Fenton, South Cumbria’s chief reporter for Newsquest based at The Mail in Barrow, who has been forced to flee her home and been put under police protection.
On 23 May 2020, The Mail published a report by Amy Fenton concerning a woman who had been charged with perverting the course of justice. Following publication, Fenton reportedly received ‘in excess of 100 death threats and threats of unlawful violence’ both on and offline: her byline was subsequently removed from the article due to the volume of abuse received.
The following day, on 24 May 2020, having assessed the threats made and believing there was a credible risk to her life and that of her young daughter, police advised Fenton to leave her family home. She has since been staying in a secret location under constant police protection.
Fenton has urged the police to do more to tackle and deter attacks on journalists in relation to their reporting, stating that ‘If serious action was taken against such bullies then the deterrent would prevent most people from behaving in such a reprehensible way. A lack of action only fuels their activities and allows them to believe the law allows them to behave in such a way.’
An alert on her case has been submitted to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, supported by ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship and PEN International.
PEN calls for an end to the harassment of Amy Fenton, and stands in solidarity with her and the many other journalists in the UK who are facing increased levels of threats for doing their jobs. We further call on the UK government to live up to its obligations under UK and international law to ensure that journalists are protected and a free press can thrive.
Irish PEN / Freedom to Write Campaign
Wales PEN Cymru