The European Federation of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists joined their member union in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), to condemn the use by the UK police of special powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 to seize the laptop of a BBC journalist and have access to his sources.
Detectives served an order obtained from a judge on the BBC and Secunder Kermani, a Newsnight reporter who has produced extensive reports on jihadis born in Britain. It is understood that the police wanted to read communications between Kermani and a man who had publicly identified himself as a member of the Islamic State.
“The protection of journalists’ sources is a cornerstone of democracy”, said the EFJ president, Mogens Blicher Bjerregård. “By misusing anti-terror laws, the UK police make it very difficult for reporters to cover many issues of critical public interest.”
“This is a bad day for press freedom”, said the IFJ president, Jim Boumelha. “Journalists have an obligation to protect their sources and any police and court action exploiting the wide-ranging terror legislation to force them to reveal their communications, including notes, e-mails, footage and recording, makes it more difficult for them to do their job to inform the public.”
NUJ General Secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: “Using journalists as tools of the police in this way has a chilling effect on press freedom and hampers the ability of journalists to protect their sources and do their jobs properly and with integrity. Police and state interference is making the lives of journalists incredibly difficult and potentially jeopardies their safety in the process. Whether it’s the routine use of surveillance by police on journalists, the legal cases brought against journalists accused of corrupting public officials or the targeting of journalists covering public order situations – it all creates a climate where trusting in journalists or being a whistleblower is incredibly difficult.”
(Picture credit: BBC)