Government to Engage With NMA Over Journalists’ Sources Concerns

The Government confirmed in Parliament that it will engage in ongoing dialogue with the NMA on journalistic protections in the Investigatory Powers Bill. This was in response to the latest probing amendments tabled by Labour and SNP in respect of interception of communications data, debated on Tuesday.

In a lively exchange regarding whether protection for sources should be on the face of the Bill – as suggested by the amendment – or left to the codes of practice, Kier Starmer, Labour spokesperson told the Solicitor General “It is all very well having warm words in the code of practice and warm words, which we have heard many times, about the protection of journalists’ sources, but unless they are translated into something that has real bite and effect, they remain warm words.”

The Solicitor General said that the Government was consulting with the industry on how to best protect the interests at stake, referring to the recent meetings with the NMA and its members. 

He said: “We have met with leading representatives from journalism on three occasions to discuss the Bill.  We have written to the National Union of Journalists and the News Media Association about the concerns they have raised. This is part of a dialogue that is very much ongoing about the protections afforded by the Bill to journalistic material. They rightly say to us that it is not about them but about the interests that they serve. I cannot reiterate enough that we must focus on that issue when drafting the legislation.”

The Opposition made clear that they would continue to press for improvement. The transcript of the Committee Stage including Labour’s forensic analysis of the inadequacy of the protection given by the current clause on interception of communications data is available here.