Society welcomes stronger protections for freedom of speech in Bill of Rights

Posted on: June 22, 2022 by Claire Meadows

The Society of Editors has welcomed promises by the government that freedom of speech will be given “greater weight in law” in a new Bill of Rights.

Under the new Bill, set to be introduced into parliament this afternoon (Wednesday 22 June), freedom of the press and freedom of expression will be boosted by the introduction of “a stronger test for courts to consider before they can order journalists to disclose their sources”. The plans will also “reinforce freedom of speech”, the government has said.

Responding to the announcement, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society said: “As the Society outlined earlier this year, in recent years we have seen freedom of expression significantly undermined by judges prioritising personal privacy over freedom of speech.

“With this in mind, we welcome today’s announcement that a new Bill of Rights will address this imbalance by giving greater weight in law to freedom of speech as well as improving protections for journalists’ sources. We look forward to seeing the detail in due course.”

The publication of today’s Bill of Rights follows a government consultation earlier this year which looked at Reform of the Human Rights Act 1998. Responding to the consultation, the Society said that enhanced protections were needed to strengthen statutory provisions for freedom of expression as well as the introduction of an actual or likely serious harm threshold in misuse of private information cases and a limit on the factors that can be considered in demonstrating harm.

Writing an op-ed in today’s Sun ahead of the Bill’s planned publication, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab MP promised that the Bill will strengthen freedom of speech which he said was “under attack from expanding privacy law to stifling political correctness”.