The International Federation of Journalists backed the call today by its member union, the National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland, to all members of the British parliament to vote against the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) to be debated in parliament on Tuesday 15 March.
The NUJ argues that this bill poses a severe threat to press freedom in the UK as it waters down existing standards or protections for journalism enshrined in legal domestic legislation -- the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and the Terrorism Act.
“The right to protect journalistic sources is recognised by international and European law, and the European Court of Human Rights issued several rulings strengthening this right as a key element of freedom of expression”, said IFJ president Jim Boumelha. “It is questionable whether the IPB will be compliant with article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the protection of freedom of expression. Journalists in the UK have been for far too long spied upon and their communications intercepted, and it is unconscionable that the British law makers now seeks to undermine their right to protect their sources.”
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: "This bill is a threat to the ability of journalists to do their jobs, to guarantee their material and to protect their sources. Without that protection, we simply won't have a functioning free press. A lack of safeguards for all journalists will have profound consequences for the public’s right to know in the UK."
According to the NUJ, the bill contains no requirement to notify a journalist, media company or their legal representatives when the state intends to access journalists’ communications or hack electronic equipment. It includes proposals to allow the state to intercept and examine both the content and meta-data of journalists' communications and to interfere with computers and other electronic equipment. Furthermore, the bill does not contain the right to challenge or appeal a decision to access journalists’ communications, material and sources.
The NUJ calls for specify comprehensive safeguards for sources and whistleblowers, and for a process of open and independent judicial authorisation rather than the proposed judicial commissioners who are appointed by the prime minister.
The UK government has so far refused to consider key recommendations by parliamentary committees, including a joint committee set to scrutinise the bill which insisted that "protection for journalistic privilege should be fully addressed by way of substantive provisions on the face of the bill."
The union has called for concerted action by all its members nationwide calling on their members of parliament to oppose the bill.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries