Europe - Central Asia
United Kingdom
Index 2024
23/ 180
Score : 77.51
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
26/ 180
Score : 78.51
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

Alarming attacks on Iranian journalists exiled in the UK, lawsuits aimed at gagging journalists, widespread job cuts, and low public trust in media all marked the UK press freedom landscape in 2023. 

Media landscape

The British media landscape continues to suffer from a lack of pluralism, with just three companies – News UKReach, and Daily Mail and General Trust – dominating the national market, concentrating power and influence in very few hands. Public service broadcaster the BBC continues to come under pressure, and there is growing debate about foreign ownership of UK papers. 

Political context

Despite government assurances that media freedom is a priority, a restrictive political climate has impacted press freedom in the UK in recent years. The detention and questioning of several journalists entering the country under counter-terrorism legislation was a worrying development in a country where journalists have generally been able to operate freely, and the ongoing detention of Julian Assange as he awaits extradition to the US is a further source of alarm.

Legal framework

There was progress against abusive lawsuits aimed at silencing journalists (known as SLAPPs), with the introduction of legislation to counter such suits linked to economic crime. While a more comprehensive anti-SLAPP law is still required, formal government recognition that such abuses of law constitute a safety issue for journalists was welcome news.  

Economic context

Budgetary pressures aggravated by the pandemic have left many outlets forced to close their newsrooms or drastically reduce the number of staff. The threat of costly libel action and the precarious nature of freelancing have prevented many independent media outlets and freelance journalists from taking on sensitive investigations or forced them to crowdfund for legal support. The growth of initiatives to support local democracy reporting has been a welcome development over recent years. 

Sociocultural context

Journalists in the UK are largely free to work without significant cultural constraints, though political polarisation increasingly exposes individuals to criticism and intimidation, especially online. In Northern Ireland, journalists remain at risk from paramilitary groups and organised crime gangs; a shadow has been cast by lingering impunity for the 2001 murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O’Haganand no one has yet been sentenced for the 2019 murder of journalist Lyra McKee. 


Threats to Iranian journalists working in the UK escalated in 2023, with broadcaster Iran International forced to suspend its UK operations because of safety concerns. Journalists exiled in the UK face a wide range of transnational threats, including online abuse that is often gendered. The safety of journalists also remains a concern in Northern Ireland, where they face threats for reporting on organised crime and paramilitary activities. The publication of a National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists in March 2021 was a welcome step, though progress on implementation has been slowed by Covid and instability within government.