The Sun picked up a special award marking its 50th anniversary at a gala dinner hosted by the Society of Editors last night, at which a video message from Rupert Murdoch was shown.
Sun editor Tony Gallagher (pictured, right) collected the prize, which recognised the good causes championed by the newspaper over the five decades since it relaunched as a tabloid in 1969 under Murdoch.
The Australian media mogul bought the paper from Mirror group boss Hugh Cudlipp. It went on to become the UK’s best-selling daily newspaper.
In a recorded video message, Murdoch, who is executive chairman of News Corp, parent company of Sun and Times publisher News UK, thanked the paper’s “millions of readers over the years”.
“Without them, The Sun would not have been as positive a force at every step of the way. Our readers have been right behind us,” he said against a backdrop of the New York skyline.
“When we have campaigned for changes to the law, we’ve had postbags, petitions full of our readers’ support. And when we have told readers about causes that have needed support, they have fundraised and made a difference.
“In the last 50 years, Sun readers have contributed £100m to charity, from raising money for Help for Heroes at a time when our wounded troops were being vilified, to knitting blankets for children freezing in refugee camps, we have seen numerous acts of huge generosity.”
Murdoch said free speech “remains under serious threat from capricious law-makers and the politically correct, who increasingly seek an insidious censorship”.
He added: “Free speech is vital to a functioning democracy and a right so precious that it should be cherished. Everyone here has a responsibility to give a voice to the voiceless and empower the powerless.”
Accepting the award from Society of Editors president Ian MacGregor (pictured, left) on behalf of Murdoch and News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks, Gallagher said: “The cause of free speech is a noble and precious one.
“One of the things that most alarms me about our current crop of MPs is their very thin attachment to the notion of free speech and when free speech is challenged they tend to run for the hills.
“I think anybody who cherishes the notion of free speech must hope that we get a more robust crop on December 13.”
The Society, which marked its 20th annual conference yesterday, also presented a lifetime achievement award to journalist and broadcaster Kate Adie.
Accepting the award, Adie shared a list of her journalistic priorities compiled over the years.
She said: “Be an eye witness. It’s primary. You can’t do it by phone or drone. You have to be there.
“Facts need to be very much to the fore these days. Get on the ground, ask questions, ignore the PR, ignore the press officer, ignore the bigwig who tries to muscle in. Talk to people who have experienced it.”
And she warned: “Everybody lies in a war because of fear, because of defence. People who are trying to survive will tell lies.”
The society has nearly 400 members made up of senior editorial staff across national, regional and broadcast news outlets, academics and lawyers.
Picture: Society of Editors