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Journalists must be able to protect their sources

But, shockingly, it seems the police have been engaging in wide-scale targeting of journalists. They obtained the phone records of Sun political editor Tom Newton…

But, shockingly, it seems the police have been engaging in wide-scale targeting of journalists. They obtained the phone records of Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn and many others.
The interception of communications commissioner, Sir Anthony May, found that in the last three years 19 police forces put in more than 600 applications to view journalists’ phone records to identify their sources.
This is unacceptable. It risks jeopardising investigative journalism and freedom of speech. 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.
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.
Indeed, May has confirmed in his report that this can give rise to violations of Article 10 of the European convention on human rights – the right to free expression – and that the police have failed to give proper consideration to this when signing off applications for data.
He recommended that a judge should have to approve any request for communications data that would identify the source of journalistic information.
Culled from theguardianmedia

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