I entirely agree with the hon. Lady. I was delighted to host an IPU/BBC World Service event at which we heard from the head of the BBC Persian service. Its journalists are all based in London, and they dare not travel to Iran. It is their families who are being harassed and persecuted, which is wholly unacceptable, and I know it is one of the issues that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has raised and, I hope, will continue to raise.
I chair the all-party parliamentary group on media freedom, and this is an excellent example. I commend the Government’s work on media freedom. It was my right hon. Friend’s predecessor, my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt, who made media freedom a priority and who hosted the international conference in London last year. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is continuing that work and has already told the House about his recent meeting with the Canadians, who have also led on this.
We have made some progress. Forty-nine journalists died last year, which is a historically low figure, but it is still 49 too many. Perhaps worryingly, a greater proportion than in previous years died outside conflict zones and were perhaps deliberately targeted, often by their own Government. Three hundred and eighty-nine journalists are still in prison around the world, with nearly half of them in three countries: China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
In her speech, the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury talked about the death of Jamal Khashoggi. I completely agree with her that although we are told that some people have been held responsible, the masterminds behind that murder have not yet been identified. Nor, I suspect, have the masterminds been identified in another shocking case from just a couple of years ago, which is the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, a country in the European Union where the ramifications are still being felt. There is still work to do on media freedom, and I am pleased that that was highlighted in the Queen’s Speech and that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gives it such priority.
I wish quickly to mention one other issue. As I think you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, I also chair the all-party group on Ukraine. I was delighted to meet the Ukrainian ambassador earlier today, and I am grateful to colleagues from all parties who came and signed the book of condolence for the families of those who died in the plane crash. It is now nearly four years since Russia illegally occupied part of the sovereign state of Ukraine—Crimea—and since the fighting broke out in the east of Ukraine. It is plain that those actions by Russia were in breach of all international law. We have taken sanctions, but they have proved ineffectual so far: the Russians are still in occupation in Crimea and the fighting in Donbass continues. Just last week, another three Ukrainians died in that fighting.
We have a responsibility: first, because we were one of the original signatories of the Budapest memorandum, which guaranteed the sovereign integrity of Ukraine in return for Ukraine’s giving up its nuclear arsenal; and secondly, because a European country has been invaded. I hope we will continue to support President Zelensky in his efforts, but the Gracious Speech also refers to sanctions. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that, now that we are leaving the European Union, it gives us an opportunity to impose stronger sanctions without having to reach agreement throughout the European Union.
Not only would I like to see sanctions against the people responsible for the invasion of Ukraine and, indeed, against those Ukrainians who have previously stolen money—much of which has not yet been found—from their own country, but we should also take advantage of the Magnitsky list, which the House passed yet has so far not been implemented. Media freedom is an excellent example—I commend the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which was chaired by my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat —of where there is a real opportunity to add teeth to our words about the importance of media freedom by taking out sanctions against those responsible.
I commend the Gracious Speech, particularly for its in emphasis on international affairs and the attention that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary rightly gave to these issues in his contribution.