Surveillance in UK is Having Chilling Effect on Journalism Profession, says IFJ

Surveillance in the UK is having a hugely negative effect on the ability of journalists to work in the public interest and protect their sources, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has stated.

Recent reports show that the UK’s Met Police obtained a journalist's phone records to identify confidential sources directly. The IFJ believes this action is a clear attack on freedom of expression as defined by international humanitarian law.

The Federation says the climate of secrecy around mass surveillance activities means that sources will be less likely to contact journalists as they cannot know when they might be monitored or how intercepted information might be used against them.

As a result, the ability of journalists to hold public bodies to account and to produce information that is in the public interest is affected.

“For a free press to function the means of communicating with a journalist must also be protected,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “But the climate of uncertainty created by surveillance in the UK means that sources are nervous about talking to journalists because they fear the consequences. This tips the balance in favour of government and clearly undermines democratic values. It is a very worrying development.”

The IFJ has issued the comments as it prepares for its major 'Journalism in the Age of Mass Surveillance' Conference.

The conference has been organised by the IFJ and its UK affiliate, the National Union of Journalists, UK and Ireland (NUJ), to discuss key concerns about the impact of mass surveillance on press freedom and to explore practical steps for safeguarding journalists and their sources.

Hosted by Guardian News and Media, the conference takes place this Thursday, 16 October, and will bring together journalists and media workers from around the world, politicians, trade unionists, lawyers, civil rights and privacy campaigners.

Some of the themes that will be explored on the day include:

• Big Brother is watching you: Mass surveillance of the media industry

• Practical steps: Safeguarding journalists and their sources

• Joining forces and building alliances to defend against mass surveillance


Speakers confirmed include Alan Rusbridger from the Guardian News & Media, Michelle Stanistreet from the National Union of Journalists, Jim Boumelha from the International Federation of Journalists, Massimo Mucchetti from Corriere della Sera, Gavin Millar QC from Doughty Street Chambers, Mark Thomas comedian and political activist, Bernie Lunzer from the US Newspaper Guild and Izza Leightas from Human Rights Watch.

For more information on the conference and to learn more about the issue of mass surveillance and its impact on journalism, visit the NUJ website:

For further information and interviews about the 'Journalism in the Age of Mass Surveillance' conference please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17

The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries