LibLink: Julian Huppert: Journalists must be able to protect their sources

Julian Huppert MPJulian Huppert has tabled an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill enabling journalists to better protect their sources. He wrote about why this was necessary in the Guardian – apparently over 600 applications have been made to access journalists’ phone records in the last three years. That’s about four a week. As Julian puts it:

How will anyone be brave enough to contact a journalist in the public interest, if they know that they can easily be tracked down?

What’s more, these actions have clearly discouraged whistleblowers from coming forward, having a chilling effect on free speech.

Current procedures do not give adequate protection to journalists:

At the moment the police quite rightly need the approval of a judge before they can take documents from a journalist. But they authorise themselves to access the journalist’s mobile phone records and other communications data. This cannot be right.

As a matter of principle, police and security services should not be able to authorise themselves to snoop on journalists to get to their sources. It may be convenient for the police but it’s not right for freedom of the press and it’s not right for the whistleblowers who badly need protection.

His amendment has the support of our party. He challenges the Conservatives to make their deeds much up to their well-intentioned words on this issue and seeks support from across the House. It would be great if this could be another victory for Commons backbenchers, like with Greg Mulholland’s pubs amendment a few months back.

I’ve proposed an amendment to the serious crime bill to fix this and make sure we protect not just journalists and their sources but also respect legal privilege, including confidential conversations with healthcare professionals, ministers of religion and MPs.

I’m delighted that this is supported by my own party but also that I’m getting increasing support from other parties.

You can read the whole article here.

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One Comment

  • As a former publisher of journals I very much support the principle here behind Julian’s amendment but I’m unclear about the story above. Julian says that the police can authorise themselves to access journalists’ mobile phone records & communications data, but the story says that there have been 600 applications made to access journalists’ communications in the last 3 years. What body were these applications being made to, were the police applying for permission to access communications? — if so that doesn’t sound like authorising themselves.

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