Burcu Cura on a visit by City students to lecture by Tony Hall

“Freedom of expression has to be the starting point for everything” says Director General of the BBC
Burcu Cura

Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, said “freedom of expression has to be the starting point for everything we do,” in the inaugural Satchwell Lecture at the Stationers’ Hall in London on Monday.

Lord Hall told invited guests, including students studying for an MA in financial journalism at City University of London, that freedom of speech for journalists was “telling people what those in power would prefer them not to know”. He called on journalists to fight against the political, legal, commercial and cultural pressures which prevented them from doing their job.

Saying that “repression of the media seems to have become a new norm,” Lord Hall pointed out that in Turkey over 150 journalists were jailed and more than 9,000 have lost their jobs due to critical and investigative reporting.

The consequences for journalists who have been targeted can be even worse than imprisonment. “In Afghanistan, earlier this year Ahmad Shah, just 29 years old, was shot dead for being a BBC journalist. And just in the last week we have had the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who worked for the Washington Post, and then overnight Viktoria Marinova, an investigative journalist from Bulgaria, was killed”.

Lord Hall also announced that editorial guidelines of the BBC will be committed to “freedom of expression” explicitly in the New Year for the first time in 96-year history of the corporation. “And the greater threat to freedom of expression, the greater will be our determination to uphold it”.

Bob Satchwell, a former executive director of the Society of Editors, stepped down from his role in March 2017 due to a life-changing illness after leading the society for nearly two decades. The aim of the lecture is to raise funds for Mr Satchwell’s rehabilitation care after he suffered from a debilitating aneurysm and stroke.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *