NMA Welcomes Press Exemption For New Communications Offences

The News Media Association has welcomed a “much-needed” press exemption to protect freedom of expression within new communications offences designed to make the internet safer.  

In a statement last week, Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Chris Philp MP said the government had accepted the Law Commission’s recommendation to include a press exemption within new offences which will be added onto the face of the Online Safety Bill.

“We have also accepted the Law Commission’s recommendation to include a press exemption within the general harm-based communications offence and the knowingly false communications offence.” Mr Philp said.  

“Whilst we do not expect the new offences will capture communication made by the media, including this press exemption demonstrates the government’s commitment to upholding media freedom.”

NMA legal director Sayra Tekin said: “The NMA provided the Law Commission with cross-industry evidence to make the case for a much-needed press exemption within these new offences.

“We are very pleased that the government has accepted their recommendation. A strong, robust and workable press exemption is necessary to ensure that journalists can continue to carry out their vital role effectively when these new offences come into force.

“Making the internet safer is a laudable objective. We are pleased that Ministers have achieved this while firmly safeguarding journalistic freedoms – a balance critical to maintain for a functioning democracy.”

While welcoming the exemption within these three new criminal offences, the NMA continues to work with DCMS and Ministers to ensure the revised Online Safety Bill delivers on the recommendation in the Joint Committee’s report, strengthening the news publisher exemption to ensure it is robust, workable and watertight.