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Ministers to make social media firms liable for threats to journalists, report claims

Patricia Devlin 2020Editors have welcomed reports of planned new laws that will protect journalists receiving abuse on social media.

The Times has reported that journalists will be protected by legislation requiring social media companies to take responsibility for threats and abusive material on their platforms.

It comes after the government last year established National Committee for the Safety of Journalists to look into the matter.

HTFP has regularly reported on many individual cases of regional press journalists facing threats and abuse online in recent years.

The Times has identified young women working in the regional and local media, in particular, as being targeted, noting “some have left the job out of fear for their wellbeing”.

Earlier this month Belfast-based journalist Patricia Devlin, pictured, lodged an official complaint against the Police Service of Northern Ireland over what she said was a failure to investigate a threat to rape her newborn son.

Liverpool Echo political editor Liam Thorp has also shared fears the abuse of regional press colleagues is now “out of control” in recent weeks.

Liverpool man Joshua Gibbs was jailed for two-and-a-half years in January over death threats made to Liam and another Echo employee.

John Whittingdale, Minister of State for Media and Data, told The Times: “The need for accurate and trusted news has never been greater, yet attacks against journalists and the vital work they do are increasing.”

Welcoming the reports, Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray said: “There must be a clear message that journalism is not a crime and that journalists going about their work should not be open to threats and abuse.”