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  5. Scottish political leaders mark World Press Freedom Day

The three leaders of Scotland’s biggest political parties have expressed their support for a strong independent Scottish press to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Held annually on May 3 for the past 30 years, World Press Freedom Day aims to raise awareness of the value of trustworthy journalism and also freedom of expression, in support of a 1993 United Nations declaration that an independent free press is “essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation and for economic development.”

According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 99 journalists and media workers were killed around the world in 2023, and the UN believes 320 were imprisoned, the highest ever.

First Minister and SNP leader Humza Yousaf said that the right to freedom of expression was “critical” in an age of widespread disinformation, while Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said governments had a role to play with support through public advertising investment.

Mr Yousaf said: “World Press Freedom Day reminds us of the vital importance of a free, strong, and independent press globally.

“Journalists everywhere must have the freedom to criticise governments and hold public institutions to account, and feel empowered to publish news they believe is in the public interest. The Scottish Government is of course strongly supportive of these freedoms.

“This World Press Freedom Day, I want to recognise the importance of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act in enshrining in law our right to freedom of expression. Although that right belongs to all of us, it is of particular relevance to journalists and news publishers who work to keep us all informed – which is so critical in this age of widespread disinformation and misinformation.”

Mr Sarwar said:  “A free press is vital to the proper functioning of democracy – but across the globe, journalists continue to face intimidation and even violence from despotic regimes and powerful interests.

“Government also has a role in ensuring the ongoing success of the print media – maintaining its independence while supporting a sustainable future, particularly through public message advertising because newspapers remain a key source of information for many Scots.

“Telling truth to power is at the heart of proper democracy – this World Press Freedom Day I commit to supporting freedom of the press the world over.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross MSP said: “Thankfully in Scotland and across the United Kingdom we are fortunate that politicians – like myself – are able to be fully held to account by journalists. That is something I relish, and I am proud to support World Press Freedom Day.

“However, today also reminds us that other journalists elsewhere in the world are not so lucky and find themselves harassed, attacked, imprisoned or even murdered merely for doing their job.”

Newsbrands Scotland director John McLellan added: “There is unanimity about the necessity for a strong, independent news media, but it is also beyond question that quality news costs money.

“We would therefore urge politicians of all parties to match their words with deeds and redouble their efforts to ensure the resources needed to maintain a vibrant free press remain available, be it through legislation or by fair advertising and marketing investment.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said: “When we lose a journalist, we lose our eyes and ears to the outside world. We lose a voice for the voiceless. We lose, in fact, a human rights defender.

“On the climate crisis – and on all crises – journalists serve as the ultimate allies in human rights. Because in their pursuit of facts, evidence and accountability, we have one of our best hopes to build societies based on truth and trust.”