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SoE: Government ‘needs to do more homework’ on RIPA

The Society of Editors has welcomed a consultation on amendments to the changes to the Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data Code of Practice relating to use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, but says the Government needs to do more homework.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: “While the consultation is welcomed proposed amendments to the Code go nowhere near meeting our concerns.

“Most important, the best changes suggest is that there should be automatic reference to the Interception of Communications Commissioner if a journalist or someone in other sensitive work is subject to a RIPA investigation.

“By then the damage is done and a journalist’s sources or other sensitive material can be compromised.

“The police don’t get it and now it seems Ministers are missing the point. They are more concerned with who might talk to the media than whether or not the public have a right to know what is being hidden.

“Some police forces will not even tell us how many times they have used RIPA to investigate journalists.

“Politicians from the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary down say they want to to protect the freedom of the media. James Brokenshire, the Immigration and Security Minister, has joined the chorus but no-one seems prepared to tell the police to stop interfering with legitimate journalism that is clearly in the public interest.”

The Society is expecting to meet James Brokenshire early in the new year. He has called for views on additional safeguards to protect the freedom of the press and has vowed that the Government is determined that nothing is done that puts a free press at risk.

Satchwell added: “He can expect a loud response before we meet him.”

View the amendments and consultation document here.