British newspaper industry body the News Media Association has written to UK Home Secretary Theresa May requesting changes to laws which it says pose a threat to journalistic sources from “unwarranted use of state surveillance and enforcement powers”.
Chair of the NMA legal, policy and regulatory affairs committee, Lord Black of Brentwood, wrote to Ms May to ask for a “transparent and effective” review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
In the letter, Lord Black said that the industry was united in its concern about the threat to journalism that was posed by state surveillance and enforcement powers, arguing that the investigatory powers law, counter terrorism and public order legislation were open to abuse by authorities.
“These draconian legislative powers are being used without proper regard to the protection of freedom of expression and press freedom, an intrinsic part of which is the fundamental principle of protection of sources,” the letter states.
Further, it argues for the incorporation of safeguards to protect journalists’ sources, through a range of changes to the core legislation.
Changes proposed in the letter include mandatory prior judicial authorisation and more independence in the evaluation of applications to use the laws; stronger conditions for the approval of applications that involve journalists, journalistic activities or sources; mandatory rights of prior notification and rights of appeal for media organisations and journalists.
The News Media Association said it would “welcome an early opportunity for discussion on the swift introduction of strong and effective legislative safeguards for journalists’ sources, journalistic investigation and reporting.”
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