Free expression organisations intervene in case of Northern Ireland investigative journalists

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”106984″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”106985″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]A raid on the homes and office of two Northern Irish investigative journalists should be ruled unlawful, freedom of expression groups Index on Censorship and English PEN have said in a submission to the High Court in Northern Ireland.

Index and English PEN have intervened in the case of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, who were arrested and questioned last year following armed raids on their homes over allegations a confidential document featured in their documentary No Stone Unturned, which examines claims of state collusion in the murders of six men had been stolen.  

During the raid, police seized documents, personal computers and USB sticks belonging to family members and copied a computer server that contained years of sensitive reporting by the documentary makers, risking endangering confidential sources unrelated to the film.

Birney, McCaffrey and Fine Point Films will argue in a judicial review case to be heard in Belfast next week that the court should recognise that the search warrants used to carry out the raids were unlawful and improperly executed.

Index on Censorship and English PEN filed a written submission to the court on May 17 after the court granted permission for the organisations to intervene.

“The application for and execution of the search warrants was wholly disproportionate,” the submission states, noting the “chilling effect” of such orders. “That chilling effect is considerably more acute when the application is made ex parte [with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party], when authorities on the rights of journalists are not brought to the Court’s attention, and when the manner of the execution of the search warrants is so severe… such conduct is likely to have the effect of intimidating journalists throughout Northern Ireland and further afield.”

Index on Censorship and English PEN are represented by solicitor Darragh Mackin at Phoenix Law and barrister Jude Bunting at Doughty Street Chambers.

For more information please contact Sean Gallagher at Index on Censorship – [email protected] – or Cat Lucas at English PEN – [email protected].

Notes for editors

The judicial review will be held from 28 – 30 May.

English PEN is a registered charity and membership organisation which campaigns in the United Kingdom and around the world to protect the freedom to share information and ideas through writing.PEN supports authors and journalists in the United Kingdom and internationally who are prosecuted, persecuted, detained, or imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression. English PEN has a strong record of campaigning for legal reform throughout the United Kingdom.

Index on Censorship is a London-based non-profit organisation that publishes work by censored writers and artists and campaigns against censorship worldwide. Since its founding in 1972, Index on Censorship has published some of the greatest names in literature in its award-winning quarterly magazine, including Samuel Beckett, Nadine Gordimer, Mario Vargas Llosa, Arthur Miller and Kurt Vonnegut. It also has published some of the world’s best campaigning writers from Vaclav Havel to Elif Shafak.[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1558600708500-33cfa04e-8965-8″ taxonomies=”8996″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Vigil for Daphne Caruana Galizia


Daphne Caruana Galizia

Daphne Caruana Galizia

On 16 April, we will be holding a vigil at Malta House in London to mark six months since Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder and to continue calls for justice.

The vigil is co-sponsored by English PEN, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Index on Censorship and Il-Kenniesa.

#DaphneCaruanaGalizia #JusticeForDaphne #Malta[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

When: Monday 16 April 1-2 pm
Where: Malta House, 36-38 Piccadilly, W1J 0DP (Directions)

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#FreeTurkeyMedia: “Solidarity is the most important thing we can give them”


On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, dozens of activists and journalists gathered outside the Turkish Embassy in London to protest the arrest and imprisonment of journalists in Turkey. Index on Censorship joined Amnesty International, English Pen, Article 19 and others bearing signs and messages of hope.

Following the failed military coup in July of 2016, the Turkish government has unleashed a massive crackdown on its opposition, specifically targeting journalists, media outlets and educators.

Since then, over 150 journalists have been detained and over 170 media outlets have been shut down, resulting in an additional 2,500 journalists being out of work. Turkey is now the number one jailer of journalists in the world.

Seamus Dooley, the acting general secretary of the Nation Union of Journalists, addressed the protest, which took place across the street from the embassy: “We may be on the wrong side of the road but we are on the right side of history.”

Dooley highlighted the importance of coming out to protest in support of Turkey’s journalists, regardless of the weather: “Solidarity is the most important thing we can give them. Although this may seem like a dark time, the fact we are still with them shines a light on it.”

Many protesters stressed the importance of continuing to campaign until those being silenced in Turkey are free.

Ulrike Schmidt, Amnesty International

Ulrike Schmidt of Amnesty International said: “As a human rights organisation it’s our job to speak out. It’s World Press Freedom Day so we’re standing here to support the journalists in Turkey. We will keep campaigning until they can do their work again.”

Others spoke out specifically about friends who had been detained as a result of the crackdown. Two of the protesters (pictured below) came specifically to highlight the case of Ahmet Sik, a journalist with the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, who is currently being tried on accusations of spreading terrorist propaganda as well as insulting the state.


Turkey Uncensored is an Index on Censorship project to publish a series of articles from censored Turkish writers, artists and translators.

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Free expression groups call for public interest defence in UK official secrets laws

Groups call on UK governmentLondon, 3 May 2017. On World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders – known internationally as Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) – English PEN, and Index on Censorship have published their joint submission to the Law Commission’s Consultation on the Protection of Official Data.  The free speech and press freedom groups welcome the opportunity to review legislation that is long overdue for reform, following the significant changes in the collection, retention and sharing of data over the past 20 years and the challenges facing both privacy and freedom of expression in the digital age.

In the joint submission, RSF, English PEN, and Index on Censorship emphasise the importance of ensuring that official secrets legislation is fit for purpose. They argue that any reform must take account of the potential impact on legitimate activities pursued in the public interest, including the activities of investigative journalists and the sources upon whom they rely. They consider that the Law Commission’s provisional conclusions with respect to protection of public interest disclosures are inadequate and reject the proposal for a statutory commissioner as an ineffective mechanism for safeguarding the public interest.

The groups disagree with the Law Commission’s conclusion that the problems associated with the introduction of a statutory public interest defence outweigh the benefits and do not support the view that there are already sufficient existing safeguards for journalists. They submit that there should be no category of protected information created for sensitive economic information.

“The Law Commission’s proposal is nothing short of alarming, particularly when viewed in the context of a broader trend of worrying moves against press freedom in the UK over the past year, resulting in the UK dropping to a ranking of 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The prospect of journalists being labelled as ‘spies’ and facing the threat of serious jail time for simply doing their jobs in the public interest is outrageous. This proposal must be revised with respect for press freedom at its core,” said Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director for RSF.

“This is an important opportunity to reform official secrets legislation and make it fit for the 21st century. Our response to the consultation demonstrates that it is both viable and necessary to include a public interest defence. Some of the most important news stories of the past seven years have been based on leaks of classified information that are squarely in the public interest and have resulted in critical public debate about foreign policy, privacy and freedom of expression. These laws go back to the Edwardian era and it’s vital that we now have legislation for our times,” said Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN.

“It makes sense to update outmoded laws but no sense whatsoever to update them in such a way that they undermine the very liberties and freedoms on which our rule of law is based. The proposals laid out by the Law Commission threaten free expression and in particular a free media in the UK and should not be implemented in their current form,” said Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship.


  • Reporters Without Borders, English PEN, and Index on Censorship would like to thank barristers Can Yeginsu and Anthony Jones of 4 New Square Chambers, as well as Tom Francis of Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP, for their assistance in preparing this submission.
  • Press contact: Rebecca Vincent, [email protected] or +44 (0)7583 137751