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 House of Lords will consider it next on 29 October.
The Bill would criminalise expressing an opinion that is ‘supportive’ of a proscribed (terrorist) organisation if the person does so in a way that is ‘reckless’ as to whether it encourages someone else to support a proscribed organisation. The vaguely defined offence comes far too close to making opinion a crime. It would shut down democratic debate: who would dare to argue in favour of removing an organisation from the proscribed list if you risk 10 years in prison? (Clause 1)
The Bill would make it a crime to view online content that is likely to be useful for terrorism, even if you have no terrorist intent. The crime would carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years. It would make the work of investigative journalists and academic researchers difficult or impossible. (Clause 3)
The Bill would bring in a vaguely defined crime of “hostile activity” accompanied by wide-ranging new powers to stop, search and detain. A journalist taking a domestic flight could be stopped without any suspicion of wrong-doing. It would be an offence for the journalist not to answer questions or hand over materials, with no protection for confidential sources. Special rules would apply in the border area in Northern Ireland, meaning that anyone could be stopped, whether the person was planning to cross the border or not. (Section 3)
Joy Hyvarinen, Head of Advocacy at Index on Censorship, said “The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill would change the law on freedom of expression in Britain, restrict press freedom, damage academic research and endanger fundamental rights. The Bill is fatally flawed and we urge the House of Lords to ensure that the government rethinks the Bill”.
Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said “This bill has extremely worrying implications for press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources. We have underscored our concerns over a number of specific clauses that should be struck, or at a very minimum, amended to include clear exemptions for journalistic activities. We call on Lords to carefully scrutinise this problematic bill and amend it to ensure that it does not contribute to further deterioration of UK press freedom”.
Daniel Holder, Deputy Director of the Belfast-based human rights NGO, CAJ, said “The existing port and border controls powers contained within the Terrorism Act 2000 have been used in Northern Ireland almost 16,000 times in the last four years without one single resultant detention for a Terrorism Act offence. Instead of this bill introducing yet another power that can be used post-Brexit for de facto passport control on the land border, we need extra safeguards over the existing powers. We are particularly concerned that further checks risk increasing racial profiling on the land border and at ports.”
Gracie Bradley, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Liberty, said “By criminalising activities like overseas travel and browsing the web, this Bill risks chilling free speech and curbing journalistic and academic inquiry. The Lords should reject it and the ill-judged expansion of power that it represents. It will not make us more safe, but it will make us less free.”
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said “The proposed Bill would introduce extremely broad offences that have the potential to chill free speech and impede the right to seek information for people in the UK. Moreover, the Government has not convincingly shown any need for introducing these new offences or harsher penalties to the existing, expansive legal framework governing terrorist offences and counter-terrorism measures, which itself has already proven prone to abuse.”
Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said ““One click” criminalisation of viewing streamed content is not the answer to online radicalisation. It may be unclear to journalists or academics that they have a “reasonable excuse” to view such content, and keep them from investigating serious issues.”
Index on Censorship
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)
National Union of Students (NUS)
Big Brother Watch
Rights Watch (UK)
Open Rights Group
Index on Censorship is urging the House of Lords to stop the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill being enacted in its current form. The House of Lords will begin considering the bill tomorrow.
The bill, which has been slipping quietly through parliament, would reshape the legal framework for freedom of expression and journalism in the UK in a very damaging way. It would have far-reaching implications for academic research.
The vague and unclear bill would criminalise expressing an opinion that is “supportive” of a proscribed (terrorist) organisation if done in a “reckless” way that encourages someone else to support that organisation (see Clause 1). This comes very close to criminalising opinion and would carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Index is deeply concerned about other sections of the bill, which would undermine media freedom and restrict the rights of journalists. The bill would criminalise accessing content online that is likely to be useful for terrorism, even if you have no terrorist intent. A journalist investigating a terrorism-related story would risk a 15-year prison sentence. The bill would also criminalise publishing (for example, posting on social media) a picture or video clip of an item of clothing or an article such as a flag in a way that raises “reasonable suspicion” that the person doing it is a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has recommended that this clause be withdrawn or amended because it “risks a huge swathe of publications being caught, including historical images and journalistic articles”.
Index has filed an official notification with the Council of Europe about the threats to media freedom in the bill and is awaiting the government’s reply to the Council. The Media Freedom Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has written to the UK to express his worries about the bill.
United Nations special rapporteur Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin has expressed concerns about several parts of the bill, including its impacts on journalism, and emphasised that it should be brought in line with the UK’s obligations under international human rights law.
Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy, said: “The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill has far-reaching and very damaging implications for freedom of expression and journalism in the UK. It has been slipping through Parliament with little attention from MPs. Index urges the House of Lords to stand up for the rights of UK citizens’ and stop the bill from being enacted in its current form”.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_icon icon_fontawesome=”fa fa-file-text-o” color=”black” background_style=”rounded” size=”xl” align=”right” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.indexoncensorship.org%2F2018%2F06%2Findex-on-censorship-submission-on-the-counter-terrorism-and-border-security-bill-2018%2F|||”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]
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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1538995099996-7859ed1d-3ad3-2″ taxonomies=”27743″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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Index on Censorship is deeply concerned about the impacts that the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill would have on academic research and journalism. If the bill becomes law it will limit freedom of expression significantly and discourage investigative journalism and research into terrorism and related issues.
Many parts of the bill give serious cause for concern from a freedom of expression perspective. For example, a proposed new clause would extend existing legislation to criminalise expressions of opinions that are supportive of terrorist organisations if they are made in a “reckless” way which could encourage someone else to support such an organisation. The vague and unclearly defined new offence would go beyond knowingly encouraging support for a terrorist organisation, but would carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
When it comes to academic research, the bill would have far-reaching and damaging impacts.
The bill would criminalise viewing of online content that is likely to be useful for terrorism, even if the content was viewed over another person’s shoulder – and no terrorist intent would be required. It could result in a prison sentence of 15 years. It is not clear what exceptions would apply under the proposed clause 3. For example, if a researcher needed to look at a website to research the ideologies of a terrorist organisation, would she be exempted?
Dr Lawrence McNamara, Reader in Law at the University of York and Senior Research Fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, has serious concerns regarding the effect of the proposed new legislation on academic research. According to McNamara, the clause is highly problematic due to its wide scope, lack of clarity and arbitrariness: “A basic requirement of the law is certainty, and it is not clear how the potential scope of this law would be interpreted, and that is deeply troubling. It is unclear how clause 3 – with such a potentially wide scope – would be appropriately related to what might be thought of as counter-terrorism goals.”
For McNamara, an especially troubling element of the bill is its potential effect on academic research, especially as it has implications for research ethics approval, which is a prerequisite for conducting research. Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 already renders it an offence to collect, record or possess information that is likely to be useful for terrorism, but the bill would expand this substantially. McNamara says that academics would therefore be running the “risk that by doing a certain kind of research, you might much more easily find yourself breaching a law. More substantially, it would make it difficult to do research on matters we want to know about. All sorts of difficult issues would arise.”
McNamara highlights that the proposed changes to legislation in the bill would create an obstacle to research because of the level of uncertainty they would create. “It puts an unnecessary obstacle in front of the researcher due to the level of uncertainty. For instance, to comply with research ethics requirements to minimise risk to researchers, academics – either self-censoring or in response to ethics committee concerns – may limit the kinds of materials they choose to look at or even shape the research questions they investigate so that such risks are minimised. This would render it much more difficult for people to conduct research of real value.”
“As to the possibility of an academic researcher being prosecuted, much would depend on the circumstances, but there only needs to be a realistic prospect of conviction in order for a prosecution to be commenced. The public interest arm of the test may not be of great assistance because a prosecution will ordinarily proceed unless the prosecutor is sure that the public interest factors tending against prosecution outweigh those tending in favour,” McNamara explained, “Being ‘sure’ sets quite a significant bar, and in the case of terrorism offences one might expect that it could be difficult for a prosecutor to say they are ‘sure’ of that.” Moreover, the courts have made it clear that whether a person had a reasonable excuse – and thus a defence – is a matter that should be decided by a jury.
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is moving forward rapidly in Parliament with the House of Lords now scheduled to consider it in early October. Many are probably unaware of how damaging the bill could be for academic freedom and research – it should not be allowed to slip through.
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Interview by Long Dang[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ initial_loading_animation=”none” grid_id=”vc_gid:1537173908188-0ca162c8-09db-2″ taxonomies=”27743″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Index on Censorship is concerned about the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill and believes that the bill should go back to the drawing board.
The bill threatens investigative journalism and academic research by making it a crime to view material online that could be helpful to a terrorist. This would deter investigative journalists from doing their work and would make academic research into terrorism difficult or impossible.
New border powers in the bill could put journalists’ confidential sources at risk. The bill’s border security measures would mean that journalists could be forced to answer questions or hand over material that would reveal the identity of a confidential source. These new powers could be exercised without any grounds for suspicion.
The bill also endangers freedom of expression in other ways. It would make it an offence to express an opinion in support of a proscribed (terrorist) organisation in a way that is ‘reckless’ as to whether this could encourage another person to support the organisation. This would apply even if the reckless person was making the statement to one other person in a private home.
The bill would criminalise the publication of a picture or video clip of an item of clothing or for example a flag in a way that aroused suspicion that the person is a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation. This would cover, for example, someone taking a picture of themselves at home and posting it online.
Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy said: “The fundamentally flawed Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill should be sent back to the drawing board. It is not fit for purpose and it would limit freedom of expression, journalism and academic research in a way that should be completely unacceptable in a democratic country.”[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_icon icon_fontawesome=”fa fa-file-text-o” color=”black” background_style=”rounded” size=”xl” align=”right” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.indexoncensorship.org%2F2018%2F06%2Findex-on-censorship-submission-on-the-counter-terrorism-and-border-security-bill-2018%2F|||”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]
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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1536334784930-919b120b-ab92-0″ taxonomies=”7324, 28625, 26927″][/vc_column][/vc_row]