Police Surveillance of Journalists

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:48 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration) 12:48 pm, 17th July 2019

Press freedom is an integral part of democracy. We do not have too much freedom of the press in this country; we have too little. Can it be right that the press is threatened for publishing material that is in the public interest? The illegality in leaking the British ambassador to Washington’s thoughts may be tested in the courts, so I shall be cautious about any remarks on that, but surely it cannot be illegal to publish those remarks simply because they are the cause of embarrassment to the Government. Surely, it cannot be right that scanning technology is being used against journalists to investigate the leak. Is it open to the Home Secretary to issue guidance to police forces on this matter, to ensure that there is not now or in the future this trawling of journalists’ phones, laptops and other devices?

In another case earlier this month, the Belfast High Court declared that the warrants authorising the search and arrest of two documentary filmmakers were unlawful and that everything seized from the filmmakers must be returned. The filmmakers had previously released a documentary about a mass killing in Northern Ireland for which no one has ever been charged, “No Stone Unturned.” The Belfast High Court was surely right, but this case highlights the need for greater judicial oversight of the police and the security services, especially in their dealings with the press.