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.