14 Feb 2019 Lvl. 2
Alert created on: 25 Sep 2018 United Kingdom
Media Freedom Advocates Raise Alarm over UK Counter-Terror Bill
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill - proposed legislation which critics argue will have a significant negative impact on media freedom in addition to other freedoms - is under consideration in Parliament. The bill would criminalise publishing - for example, by posting on social media - a picture or video clip of items such as clothes or a flag in a way that raises “reasonable suspicion” that the person doing it is a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation. It would also criminalise watching online content that is likely to be helpful for terrorism. No terrorist intent would be required. The offence would carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Freedom of expression campaigners and media organisations have pointed out that the clause relating to online content will severely impede the work of investigative journalists.
14 Feb 2019
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act became law on 12 February 2019. Improvements were made to the draft law aiming to protect journalistic activity, but concerns remain about the Act’s implications for media freedom. Clause 2 criminalises publication of pictures or video of clothes or an article such as a flag in a way that raises “reasonable suspicion” (a low legal threshold) that the person doing so is a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation. The UK Joint Committee on Human Rights found that the clause “risks a huge swathe of publications being caught, including historical images and journalistic articles …” (Joint Committee on Human Rights, Legislative Scrutiny: Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, Ninth Report of Session 2017–19, para. 26). The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism expressed concern that the clause risks criminalising “… a broad range of legitimate behaviour, including reporting by journalists ...” (Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Submission, House of Commons Public Bill Committee, OL GBR 7/2018, 17 July 2018, para. 14). Protections for journalistic activity under extensive new border security powers remain very limited (see Schedule 3).
03 Dec 2018
United Kingdom Government's response
03 Oct 2018
OSCE Representative expresses concerns regarding draft UK Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, urges Government to safeguard media freedom.