National Security Bill poses grave threat, says Society of Editors 

The National Security Bill, which passed its third reading this week, poses a grave threat to press freedom and “rides roughshod” over established journalistic protections, the Society of Editors has warned.

Speaking ahead of the decision by MPs to vote in favour of the controversial bill last night, the Society said that it was essential that a public interest defence was added to the bill alongside further amendments to safeguard journalists and whistle-blowers. A public interest defence was hoped to be included last night via an amendment backed by cross-party MPs however it passed without inclusion. The bill will now go to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

The Society has joined a coalition of organisations calling for further amendments to the bill with the Society adding that the government’s failure to include a public interest defence clause ran the risk of “criminalising public interest journalism” while ensuring that whistle-blowers remained silent. The Society has also criticised proposals that look set to water down existing protections against police accessing journalistic material.  Read the Society’s statement in full here.

Media Freedom Awards highlights video and photo gallery A highlights video from the Society’s inaugural Media Freedom Awards ceremony last week has now been uploaded alongside the photo gallery on the Society’s website here.  The awards, which set the benchmark for a celebration of public interest journalism, took place last Wednesday 9 November 2022 and brought together more than 250 journalists from every sector of the UK news media industry. 

Writing as part of his MediaTel column this week, renowned writer and media columnist Ray Snoddy has spoken of how the Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan’s appearance at the Society’s first Media Freedom Awards last week revealed “some choice hints as to how the Government’s relationship with news brands and broadcasters could change”. To read his piece on the awards, visit here.

Society backs calls for further amendments to ICO draft journalism code 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) must further amend its draft Journalism Code if it is to be of practical use to journalists and support, rather than threaten freedom of expression, the Society of Editors (SoE) has said.

Responding to the ICO’s second consultation on its revised data protection and journalism code of practice, the Society said that the Code’s length meant that it remained impractical as a tool for journalists and editors on-the-go and that greater weight was needed throughout to make clear the public interest in freedom of expression itself. The SoE also called on the ICO to clarify within the Code its relationship with existing media regulators out of concerns that the Code risked undermining the Editors’ Code of Practice and leading to public confusion over where to direct complaints.

It said: “While the Society welcomes the fact that the revised Code has been reduced in length and that the language contained within it has been tailored to appeal to a broader audience, the Code is still far too long to be of practical use to journalists that are on-the-go.  The revised Code also does not give sufficient weight to the exemption that journalists can rely on and the public interest in freedom of expression itself.”

Read the Society’s response in full here.

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