THE British Government’s pledge to maintain the freedom of the press was a key theme of the annual Journalist’s Charity event at the Irish Embassy on Wednesday.
Home Secretary Theresa May told a packed room of current and former journalists that Britain’s free society must be valued.
“I want to mention a couple of issues this evening,” she said. “Mainly that the desire for a story from journalists across the country to inform and entertain the reader underpins what we take for granted, our free society.
“As a government, we are strongly committed to protecting the freedom of the press.”
Ms May’s plans to reintroduce the Draft Communications Data Bill, otherwise known as the ‘Snooper’s Charter,’ has received widespread criticism.
It aims to strengthen the online surveillance powers of the police and security services, and some have argued it poses a threat to investigative journalism.
In her address to the many British and Irish journalists at the charity event, Ms May praised the strong ties between the neighbouring countries.
She also stressed the importance of a new generation of media professionals being made aware of the Journalists’ Charity’s work.
“It’s a pleasure to recognise the close relationship between the two countries and this event for the charity, which is as relevant today as it was 150 years ago,” she said.
“At its heart, the charity provides help and support to colleagues who have fallen on hard times.
“It’s a philosophy we recognise in Parliament, it’s called the House of Lords,” she joked.
Irish Ambassador to Britain Dan Mulhall said that the Irish Embassy was proud to once again host the annual event at a time when relations remain strong between Britain and Ireland.
“The Irish contributed to every walk of life, including in journalism,” he said. “It’s great to serve as Ambassador in UK at a time when relations between countries are the way they are.”
Mr Mulhall then suggested that the success of the joint British and Irish Visa scheme that was launched last year and signed by Ms May, paves the way for further collaboration between the nations.
“The agreement you signed is an illustration of the new relationship between us,” he said addressing the Home Secretary.
“It was also a privilege to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph for the efforts of the Irish people during the First World War, it shows co-operation across the board.
“Regarding Northern Ireland, together we [British and Irish Governments] have produced together one of the most successful peace processes of the modern era.”
Finally, in regards to 2016 marking the centenary of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, in which many Irish people fought, he reflected on the significance of these past events for the future of both countries.