NMA Continues to Press for Journalistic Safeguards in IP Bill

The News Media Association has said it will continue to press for vital journalistic protections in the Investigatory Powers Bill as it goes to the Lords. 

Santha Rasaiah, NMA legal, policy and regulatory affairs director, said: “The NMA and its members have explained the necessity for improved journalistic protections in our past meetings and correspondence with the Security Minister and Solicitor General.

“The NMA welcomes the commitment by the government ministers to continue to work with the media on improving journalistic safeguards. We are very willing to continue detailed discussions to secure these.”

Speaking in the Report and Third Reading debates on the IP Bill at the beginning of this week, Security Minister John Hayes said “a solution must be found” and the Solicitor General acknowledged that: “Journalists serve a public interest – the vital importance of freedom of expression in our society, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and that vital aspect of journalism, the non-disclosure of the source of journalists’ material.”

The Government had “listened to the strength of feeling on the matter and will consider whether further protections, over and above the significant protections that already exist under PACE in relation to journalists themselves, are appropriate where the collateral effect of warranted intrusion discloses their sources,” the Solicitor General added.

The NMA maintains that further comprehensive and robust safeguards are vital. The Bill must be changed to require;

  • prior notice to be given to the media of the authorisation application;
  • a robust set of freedom of expression conditions for the applicant to satisfy;
  • the media’s right to participate in the hearing of an application before an independent judge, with rights of swift appeal, before use of the power is authorised.

These requirements should apply to any authorisation of the various investigatory powers set out in the Bill and RIPA in relation to journalistic activities and sources, the NMA stressed.

The Opposition, Liberal Democrats, and SNP all tabled amendments and urged the government to improve the Bill which will receive its second reading in the Lords on 27 June.