February 3, 2014

The Guardian | Newspaper Society

A bill due for a second reading in Britain’s parliament Monday would ease the burden of U.K. police in seizing journalists’ “notebooks, photographs and digital files,” Owen Bowcott reports in The Guardian.

News organizations can currently attend hearings for what U.K. courts call “production orders,” Bowcott writes, but a deregulation bill would allow such proceedings to occur in secret court sessions, without media outlets being present.

The underlying rules governing whether police can have access to material will remain the same but without media organisations being present it is feared that judges will be more easily persuaded to authorise police seizures of journalistic material. One of the less prominent recommendations of the Leveson inquiry into media standards was that it should be easier for police to obtain journalists’ information. Media organisations already face being charged with contempt of court if they do not comply.

The bill would repeal “important provisions in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984,” Britain’s Newspaper Society says in a brief.

The repeal of the safeguards which were deliberately enshrined in the Act once done could well be interpreted as encouragement to reduce not strengthen the freedom of expression safeguards for journalistic material and confidential sources against inappropriate use of police powers.

Related: Watch The Guardian destroy hard drives with Snowden files

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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