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Petitioning Member of Parliament Amber Rudd MP

Protect journalistic sources from state surveillance

Confidential journalistic sources and whistleblowers are the bedrock of a free, open and democratic society.

But many will not risk providing information to journalists on matters of public interest unless their anonymity can be assured.

That is why Parliament and the courts have protected journalistic material against the chilling effect of disclosure.  If  investigating crime, the police must apply to a judge for an order to obtain journalistic material such as notebooks or video footage.

The media has the right to be heard and put the counterarguments. The judge decides whether the specific tests, including public interest, written into statute have been satisfied and whether and what order should be made.

The Investigatory Powers Bill will allow state surveillance of every step of a journalistic investigation in the digital world.

The powers allow the state to:

  • covertly open up encrypted media databases of untransmitted or unpublished material and journalists’ own  mobile devices
  • view journalists' communications records (who called who, when and where)
  • turn reporters' mobile phone into tools of surveillance.

Sources could be put at risk. Journalists could be put in danger by being seen as proxy agents of the state.

We are asking that the same protection for journalistic activities, information and sources should apply in the digital world as the physical one and that the Investigatory Powers Bill be amended.

All state agencies’ requests to use these powers in relation to journalistic activities should be decided by a judge. There should also be a presumptive right for the media to make representations, so that the judge knows the counterarguments, which may be vital to the non disclosure of material that could reveal a source or endanger a journalist.

We also ask that  more stringent tests be set out in the Bill with full weight given to the public interest in freedom of expression and protection of sources.

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