BBC director general Tony Hall has condemned the “utterly shameful and unacceptable” threats made against journalists globally.
Lord Hall said “all too often” journalists across the world are being targeted and even killed “simply for doing their job”.
He also spoke out against the “disgraceful” anonymous threats many in the industry face on social media.
He called for rival news organisations to unite to tackle the issue, saying: “Some of the material journalists have had to face is quite frankly disgraceful. It is an attempt to intimidate people and stop them doing their jobs.”
Lord Hall, who was speaking at the News Xchange international conference in Edinburgh, said it could “feel like our profession right now is under siege and that’s wrong, and we shouldn’t feel like that”.
He referred to the killings of reporters Jan Kuciak in Slovakia in February this year and Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October 2017, and said: “There cannot be a more important issue for us as journalists, the ability to report without fear of reprisal. We cannot lose that and as we see the threat is growing and the consequences are brutal.
"Our role as journalists is to empower people to be able to make up their own minds"
— News Xchange (@NewsXchange) November 14, 2018
“Some of our colleagues have died simply for being journalists, for doing their job. It is happening all too often across the world.”
Lord Hall, also the incoming president of the European Broadcasting Union, added: “It is hard to remember a time in which journalists across the world are being deliberately targeted in the way they are today. And the fact that that is happening is utterly shameful and unacceptable.”
He also condemned the “less extreme violence” other journalists face, saying this is “almost a campaign to denigrate” the professionalism of the media.
“On Twitter there are constant anonymous threats to journalists simply reporting on opinions that some might not want to hear,” he told the conference.
“For the sake of all journalists we need to defend our role, seeking out the facts, no matter how inconvenient they may be for others, because journalism matters, whether you are in broadcasting, the press, or working online.
“Whether in this country you are the Mail or the Mirror or the Sun, or the Guardian, the Times or the Telegraph, the Express or the Independent, we are all in this together. We are an essential part of society.
Tony Hall also tells #NX18 about the importance of having journalists from “all sorts of backgrounds”, saying “We are stronger as journalists if we make sure all voices are heard in what we do.”
— Katrine Bussey (@KatrineBussey) November 14, 2018
“We need to stand together on this and if there are ways in which we can work together to defend journalism, we in the BBC stand ready to work with others across the industry to do just that.”
Lord Hall went on: “Don’t let anyone ever tell any of us that our long honourable trade is no longer fit for purpose. I have a huge confidence in our future.
“There has never been a more important time to be a journalist, there’s never been a time when our audiences need us more. We all have the right to be able to access information we can trust, because it is only by being informed we can make effective choices about who governs us and a whole raft of things in our lives.
“Our role therefore as journalists is to empower people, to enable them to make up their own minds. We must help to counter threats to democracy globally, challenging the scourge of disinformation and fake news and holding those who produce it to account.
“It is the struggle of our time and it is a battle we have to win.”