EFJ Welcomes "Landmark" Victory for Media Freedom

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today welcomed the victory of journalist Pennie Quinton and member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), an EFJ affiliate, following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights which upheld her complaint against the use of terror laws to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion.

The European Court of Human Rights today ruled that powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Pennie Quinton, who was represented before the Court by Liberty, a leading British human rights pressure group, was one of two people who were stopped and prevented from filming an arms fair in London in 2003.

The court found that the pair's right to respect for a private and family life had been violated. It awarded them 33,850 euros (£30,400) in compensation.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the Home Secretary to authorise police to make random searches in certain circumstances. But the European Court of Human Rights said the people's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated in this case.

The legislation removed the previous requirement that the police could only conduct searches where they have grounds for suspecting law-breaking activity. The Court today said the stop and search powers were "not sufficiently circumscribed" and there were no "adequate legal safeguards against abuse". It is expected the UK government will be forced to change the law and scrap Section 44.

EFJ President Arne König said: "This important judgment strikes a major blow for media freedom across Europe- showing that the random stop and search used against journalists is illegal. Particular photographers are hindered from carrying out their work and document news events, this is in our view a form of censorship. The court has agreed with us that such powers of the police are being abused."

For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 22 15

The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in 30 countries