WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 21 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Liberty force government backdown of hacking journalistic materials

Liberty force government backdown of hacking journalistic materials

The government has agreed to enact stringent safeguards aimed at shielding journalists’ confidential material from unwarranted access by state bodies, following action by Liberty.

This decision comes following a prolonged legal challenge spanning seven years. Responding to mounting pressure, the government has urged Liberty to withdraw its legal proceedings, on the promise of amending legislation.

Under the current Investigatory Powers Act 2016, intelligence agencies such as MI5 possess the authority to search bulk hacking data for confidential journalistic material, and retain it wout independent authorization. This practice has raised significant concerns about the vulnerability of communications between journalists and their sources, posing a direct threat to freedom of press.

An amendment has been introduced and debated yesterday in the House of Commons, which would mandate intelligence agencies to obtain prior approval from the Investigatory Powers Commissioner before accessing or retaining any confidential journalistic information. This encompasses material that could potentially reveal the identities of journalists’ sources. The commissioner is authorized to grant permission for accessing or retaining confidential journalistic material only if the public interest in doing so outweighs the public interest in upholding the confidentiality of such material, and if there are no less intrusive means available for obtaining the information.

Megan Goulding, a lawyer representing Liberty, hailed the development as a monumental triumph for journalistic rights and emphasized the critical role of such safeguards in upholding democratic principles. However, she also contended that journalists and sources were still at risk from other bulk surveillance powers.

While the introduction of these safeguards marks a significant step towards protecting journalistic autonomy, concerns still linger regarding the broader implications of mass surveillance.