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Readers' Letters

Editor’s comment: Story of William Hone, buried in Abney Park, is a reminder to defend press freedom

PUBLISHED: 10:53 28 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:23 28 September 2017

Fleet Street. It was here, decades earlier, that William Hone's paper was printed and distributed. Picture: PA ARCHIVE

Fleet Street. It was here, decades earlier, that William Hone's paper was printed and distributed. Picture: PA ARCHIVE

PA Archive/PA Images

It’s great to read about William Hone’s historic victory for press freedom in our heritage feature this week.

It was only a few months ago that I was writing to Meg Hillier and Diane Abbott about the threat to our ability to report freely by section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

That threat has been softened as its implementation did not appear in the Tories’ 2017 manifesto.

But it was a timely reminder that press freedom is not inalienable, however far we think we have come since 1817.

So it’s really disappointing to see a minority of people ignorantly disrespecting that freedom.

My union, the NUJ, has this year been carrying out an investigation into the abuse and harassment of journalists.

Meanwhile the BBC’s political editor has become such a target for abuse she’s had to be accompanied by security guards around Labour’s annual conference.

It was good to see Ms Abbott, who herself has suffered so much vile and despicable trolling throughout her career, speaking out against the way this senior journalist has been treated, although she – unlike Ms Hillier – did not share my concerns over the threat to the press from section 40.

But what is also very disappointing is seeing media organisations themselves failing to honour the rights won for us all: by publishing misleading clickbait; by the closure of three London titles in July; by the silence of the Evening Standard’s “editor” after being urged to declare his job with Uber shareholder Blackrock alongside that paper’s coverage of the minicab app. (There’s no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part.)

Press freedom isn’t about freedom for journalists: it’s about freedom for society.

It is vital, and must be defended on all fronts.

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