UK: Miranda ruling fails to protect public interest journalism

UK: Miranda ruling fails to protect public interest journalism - Digital

ARTICLE 19, English PEN and Media Legal Defence Initiative respond to the UK High Court ruling that David Miranda’s detention at Heathrow airport was lawful under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000:

ARTICLE 19, English PEN and Media Legal Defence Initiative are disappointed at the dismissal of David Miranda’s application for judicial review.

As organisations that work to defend the right to freedom of expression in the UK and around the world, we intervened in the case as third parties since we believed that the detention of David Miranda under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act and the retention of his property, including sensitive journalistic materials, was a disproportionate interference with his right to freedom of expression.

Miranda was assisting his partner Glenn Greenwald in his reporting for the Guardian of the revelations regarding the NSA’s and GCHQ’s surveillance programmes, a continuing story of national and international importance that is clearly in the public interest. The stopping of an individual assisting the reporting of the story, and the seizure of their materials, has profound implications for press freedom in the United Kingdom.

While the court recognises the substantial importance of the issues raised by the case, the judgment will expose any journalist covering a story on national security, who passes through a port in the UK, to being detained under Schedule 7 and having their sources or material seized. It therefore threatens to undermine protections for journalists that are recognised in international law and may deter future sources from providing information to the media in the public interest.

We are equally disappointed with the statements of the court regarding the role of journalists in a liberal democracy. In particular, the judgment questions the media’s authority to decide on publishing material relating to national security, stating that this is a constitutional role reserved for governments. We believe that this would limit journalists’ ability to cover stories of the greatest national importance and public interest.

Tom Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19:

“The Guardian’s reporting has revealed programmes of mass surveillance allowing security agencies around the world to spy on the internet and mobile phone use of millions of people. The lack of effective democratic oversight for these programmes is a story of international public interest. Worryingly, today’s judgment suggests that the law fails to give sufficient protection to serious public interest journalism, such as this, and risks dangerously devaluing the important role of the media in a democratic society.”

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN:

“The Snowden leaks are one of the most important public interest stories of recent years. The court’s dismissal of the case may discourage both whistleblowers and journalists from covering similar news stories in the future, and undermines the media’s essential role as a watchdog in our democracy.”

Peter Noorlander, Chief Executive, Media Legal Defence Initiative:

“The court has failed to recognise that David Miranda and other journalists have played a crucial role in uncovering an international system of state surveillance that encompasses the entire world and is arguably unlawful. This would not have come to light without them. Their journalism deserves protection, and this judgment fails to provide it.”

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