STATEMENT
Harlem Désir: UK counter-terrorism bill "risks creating a chilling effect on journalistic freedom"
28 Sep 2018
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, has today written to the UK government to express his concerns about the impacts of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill on media freedom, which Index on Censorship and others have criticised.

Désir recognises the importance of countering terrorism, but says that legislation should not undermine the work of journalists or impact freedom of expression.

He draws attention to Clause 2 of the bill, which would criminalise the publication of images or video clips of an item of clothing or an article in such a way as to arouse reasonable suspicion that the person is a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation. He recommends that the government adopt more narrow definitions to ensure that journalistic work does not fall within the scope of this provision.

Désir expresses reservations regarding Clause 3 which would criminalise viewing or accessing online content likely to be useful for terrorism, noting that the clause could criminalise searches for journalistic purposes or other research.

The Representative also conveyed his concerns regarding the expansion of border control powers, emphasising the need to protect confidential journalistic sources.

Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy, said “Index shares the concerns that the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has raised with the UK government regarding the impacts of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill. We welcome his intervention, which shows how seriously these developments are viewed internationally.”

Désir’s intervention follows a report by United Nations special rapporteur Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin who expressed concerns about several parts of the bill and emphasised that it should be brought in line with the UK’s obligations under international human rights law.

Index on Censorship made a submission to the committee scrutinising the bill in the House of Commons earlier this year calling for changes.  

As it stands, the law could have an impact on the freedom of the media. I am concerned that the provision has the potential to criminalise a too broad range of behaviour, and risks creating a chilling effect on journalistic freedom to report on the concerned organisation.” — Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, in his letter to the UK’s government.

Index on Censorship submission on the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 2018

Laws that protect our rights to read, research, debate and argue are too easily removed.  Index is concerned that clauses of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill will diminish those rights and freedoms. It submitted a paper to parliament to ask it to consider changes to the proposed bill in June 2018.

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The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill would restrict freedom of expression and press freedom, threaten the protection of journalistic sources, and undermine academic research in Britain. It would limit the right to access information online and it would sneak in a new, harsh border regime for Northern Ireland. The Bill has been slipping through Parliament with little attention. The […]

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