Investigatory Powers Bill

The Society is actively campaigning, alongside other media organisations for greater safeguards for journalistic material to be added to the Investigatory Powers Bill.

On behalf of our 400 members, we are concerned that the Bill, in its current form, still does not go far enough in protecting journalistic material.

We appreciate the Government appears to be moving a little in the right direction in terms of protection for journalists and their sources. It has acknowledged that “journalists serve a public interest” and that a “vital aspect of journalism” is “the non-disclosure of the source of journalists’ material.”

The main issues that remain are that media organisations should be given the opportunity to challenge applications before authorisations are given. We are also concerned that there remain insufficient protections for journalistic communications, sources, material and activity which are not covered by ‘confidential sources’.

The media industry in the UK is united in its response to the Investigatory Powers Bill. Across the industry, from the NUJ to the Media Lawyers Association and the NMA, we remain extremely worried by the lack of sufficient safeguards contained in the draft Bill.

The Bill must be changed:

  • to require prior judicial approval, after hearing media representations
  • to require prior notice to be given to the media of the authorisation application
  • to include a robust set of freedom of expression conditions for the applicant to satisfy
  • to protect 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.

This would ensure that the judge has all the relevant information necessary to make the decision on approval of any authorisation and its extent.

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.

A free media is a fundamental aspect of any functioning democracy. The bedrock of a free media is the ability of journalists to do their work in confidence, without the worry of secret intrusion by organs of the state. Even in grave or urgent circumstances there must be proper and powerful advance safeguards than cannot be circumvented for reasons of expediency.

The Society is urging its members to write to members of the House of Lords as well as MPs. Regional and local editors are asked to contact members of the Lords in their circulation areas to raise the industry’s concerns.

The Investigatory Powers Bill returns to the House of Lords for its second reading next Monday 27 June. A library briefing is available here outlining the provisions as introduced in the House of Lords on 8 June 2016. The briefing indicates where amendments were made to the Bill in the House of Commons and outlines some of the amendments debated at report stage and did not make to the Bill, including those on which the House divided.