Human Rights

Journalists in Scotland subjected to threats and censorship, says new report.

Scotland is named and shamed in a new report on press freedom that documents media censorship and attacks and threats to journalists across the world.

The Mapping Media Freedom report by Index On Censorship reveals that journalists face regular harassment, legal sanctions and jail for doing their job, even in supposed democracies.

Some of the major themes identified include violence by right wing groups and online death threats and smear campaigns against reporters. Scotland is included after several concerning incidents.

In June 2016, The Guardian was denied access to a golf course resort in Aberdeen owned by Donald Trump, where the US presidential candidate was on the second day of a two-day UK visit.

Two Guardian journalists – Ewan MacAskill and photographer Murdo MacLeod – ¬†were denied entry to the golf club by staff who said they weren’t on the list and did not have credentials.

Trump has banned several newspapers and media organisations from campaign events, including Buzzfeed in 2015 and The Washington Post in June 2016.

In another incident last year, an anonymous Twitter user got hold of a private photo of journalist Vonny Moyes, a writer for The National, and posted it on Twitter to shame her, the journalist reported.

Moyes told Mapping Media Freedom that she had written a column for The National about Christmas and seasonal excess.

She added: “My columns are a regular target for a particular demographic of troll. I write for a pro-Scottish independence newspaper (among others), so my perceived political leanings have put me in the sights of people who are aggressively pro-union and attempt to cause trouble around anything I write, because of how they think I lie on the political spectrum.

“So the column was just the catalyst for them to vocalise their pre-existing grievances. The pull-quote of the column was taken completely out of context and commented upon by Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives and also Michael Gove MP. This proved to be an amplifier and exposed me to more direct harassment than usual.”

Moyes later wrote this in reply to the trolls.

The report also notes that the National Union of Journalists issued a statement in 2014 to express “concern at the increase in intimidation and bullying of journalists covering the independence referendum” in Scotland

Hannah Machlin, Mapping Media Freedom project office, said: “The precarious state of press freedom across the globe is underlined by the volume of verified incidents added to Mapping Media Freedom in 2016. The spectrum of threats is growing, the pressure on journalists increasing and the public right to transparent information is under assault.

“People who are simply trying to do their job are being targeted like never before. These trends do not bode well for 2017.”

Mapping Media Freedom is an Index on Censorship project, a joint undertaking with the European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, partially funded by the European Commission.

It covers 42 countries, including all EU member states, plus Bosnia, Iceland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Turkey, Albania along with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia in (added in April 2015), and Azerbaijan (added in February 2016). The platform was launched in May 2014 and has recorded over 2,700 incidents threatening media freedom.

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