IP Bill: Lord Black Welcomes Latest Moves to Protect Journalists’ Sources

Lord Black of Brentwood has welcomed the latest amendments to the Investigatory Powers Bill designed to protect journalists’ sources, adding that he hoped for “rigorous oversight” to ensure the safeguards have “real bite” in protecting the confidential sources of information.

Speaking in a Lords debate on the Investigatory Powers Bill on Tuesday, chairman of the News Media Association’s legal, policy and regulatory affairs committee Lord Black welcomed the amendments although they did not “go as far as some in the media would have liked.”

Lord Black said of the amendments: “They go a considerable way to meeting the concerns raised by the media. They do not, of course, go as far as some in the media would have liked in an ideal world. In Committee we looked at prior notification, which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, has just mentioned. However, we do not live in an ideal world, and it is very welcome that these amendments recognise in the Bill the significance and special importance of journalistic material.”

The latest amendments would require applications for interceptions to contain a statement confirming that the applicant believes the target will include confidential journalistic material, or could result in the identification of a source of journalistic information.

The amendments also require a public authority which obtains confidential journalistic material, and intends to retain it, to notify the Investigatory Powers Commissioner so the Commissioner so that the commissioner is fully aware of the confidential material held by agencies.

The full statement by Deputy Leader of the House of Lords Earl Howe can be seen here

Lord Black said he hoped the impact of the legislation would be kept under review  and powers relating to journalism used rarely. He called  for “rigorous oversight” by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to ensure the safeguards have  “real bite in protecting the confidential sources of information which are the wellspring of press freedom and, as my noble friend said, fundamental to our democracy.”

Viscount Colville of Culross, Crossbench, also welcomed the amendments, adding: “My only reservation is that the Bill does nothing to allow notifying the lawyers of reputable news organisations to alert them that a warrant to carry out surveillance on their journalists has been issued.

“This would have given them a chance to explain the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of a source when a warrant was asked for. However, I trust that the changes brought forward in this group of amendments will allow the commissioner to protect those sources of journalism. I know that the noble Earl and the Bill team have worked long and hard to come up with these amendments and I thank them.”