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Ripa. Is this why journalism has gone to jelly lately. Mm11

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Ripa. Is this why journalism has gone to jelly lately.

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Post by bobbin on 15.09.14 19:21

EU court to investigate laws allowing GCHQ to snoop on journalists
Bureau of Investigative Journalism files application with European court of human rights over protection of sources


Ripa. Is this why journalism has gone to jelly lately. GCHQ-Cheltenham-006 Edward Snowden revealed last year that GCHQ had been secretly gathering intelligence from the UK's largest telecoms companies. Photograph: Alamy
The European court of human rights (ECHR) is to investigate British laws that allow GCHQ and police to secretly snoop on journalists.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has gone straight to Strasbourg in a bid to get a finding that domestic law is incompatible with provisions in European law which give journalists the right to keep sources confidential from police and others.
Its application was filed on Friday and has been accepted by the ECHR, which has indicated in the past it will expedite cases on surveillance through its legal system.
The move follows concerns arising out of Edward Snowden’s revelations last year that GCHQ had been secretly gathering intelligence from the country’s largest telecoms companies using a secret computer system code-named Tempora without the knowledge of the companies.
Also of concern is a recent revelation, which has alarmed journalists and lawyers, that the police secretly obtained the records of the Sun’s political editor after he refused to reveal the identity of sources in his Plebgate story about an altercation between police and the then Tory whip Andrew Mitchell.
Gavin Millar, QC, who is working on the case with the BIJ, said if the application was successful, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa) should be torn up.
“The whole thing is completely incompatible with European law, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and find a statutory framework that says only in the most exceptional circumstances would it be okay to collect journalists metadata or content of their phones.”
Both Tempora and the Metropolitan Police actions against the Sun’s political editor were enabled by Ripa.
Part 1, chapter 11 of the Act allows a police officer of superintendent rank or above to seize the phone records of a journalist without the journalist even knowing.
Part 1 Chapter 1 of the Act enables GCHQ to collect metadata on the agreement of the Secretary of State.
The revelation that the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn’s telephone records were requisitioned from Vodafone and those of the paper’s newsdesk, sent alarm bells throughout the industry with fears that this could have a chilling effect on press freedom with fewer whistleblowers willing to take the risk of phoning a journalists.
Millar said he believed the UK authorities were routinely carrying out data collection of journalists and their organisations to build up a picture of their sources and their lines of inquiry.
Christopher Hird, chair of the BIJ’s editorial board, said he understood why the government feels the need to have the power to intercept communications.
But Hird added that he did not believe there were “sufficient safeguards to ensure the protection of journalists’ sources”. This, he said, amounted to a restriction on the free press.
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