Minister Says Trade Secrets Directive Will Not Damage UK Investigative Journalism

The News Media Association has received a written assurance from the Intellectual Property Minister that the Trade Secrets Directive will not change the protections that exist for investigative journalists under UK law.

The European Commission, Council and Parliament are in the final stages of agreeing the text of the draft directive, which seeks to harmonise the protection for business secrets across the European Union.

The draft’s broad definition of trade secret – essentially any information that a company does not want to be widely known – and the reluctance of European institutions to provide a specific, unambiguous exemption for media freedom have caused concern among media organisations.

In a written response to NMA concerns about the directive, Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said that the existing law in the UK governing the publication of confidential information about companies by newspapers will not have to change as a result of the directive.

In the UK, newspapers can publish confidential information about companies that would might otherwise be considered a breach of confidence, provided that they can demonstrate a public interest in doing so.

The Minister wrote: “It is the Government’s view that the Directive would not have a negative impact on investigative journalism, because of the exceptions that have been provided in the text in Articles 4(2)(a) on the right to freedom of expression and 4(2)(e) on protection of legitimate interests. The public interest defence that applies in UK law would not therefore be affected.”

The NMA will continue to engage with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on improvements that could be made to the text as it goes through its final stages.