Safeguarding journalists and their sources
20 October 2014
Journalism in the age of mass surveillance: safeguarding journalists and their sources
Thursday 16 October 2014 conference – video footage, resources and reports.
PICTURES: If you want to buy pictures from the event to accompany your report, write up or coverage, please have a look at NUJ member Luca Neve's photo gallery from the event.
Welcome and introduction
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ UK and Ireland):
Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian:
Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ):
Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC):
Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower, video message to the conference:
Big brother is watching you: mass surveillance of the media industry
Chair: Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary
Ewen Macaskill, defence and intelligence correspondent at The Guardian:
- Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, USA
- Gill Phillips, director of editorial legal services at the Guardian News & Media
Gavin Millar QC, expert on media law:
John Battle, head of compliance at ITN:
Practical steps: safeguarding journalists and their sources
Chair: Jemima Kiss, head of technology at The Guardian
David Boxall, head of information security at GNM:
Anthony Bellanger, deputy general secretary of the IFJ:
Anthony spoke in French at the conference, here is a summary of his speech in English.
To protect your source is to protect your information and your independence, and to protect your independence is to guarantee the quality of the information. The right to protect journalistic sources is recognised by international law. It has been recognised by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The European Court of Human Rights said in several of its decisions that it's a key element of freedom of expression.
In most countries where a law protecting journalistic sources was adopted, the number of cases incriminating journalists on this matter has decreased or can be more easily fought back at a legal level. In countries were no such law was adopted, journalistic sources are more often threatened.
Why protect information sources of journalists?
In order to play their role of 'watch dogs', as qualified by the European Court of Human Rights, journalists need to rely on information sources. Some of these sources are official and known, but more often, they're confidential and secret. The protection of confidential sources is essential since, as described by the ECHR in the Goodwin decision in 1996, 'the protection of sources is the cornerstone of press freedom'.
That case was about an injunction made to a journalist working for The Engineer to reveal the identity of the person who had given him information on internal and confidential projects of a company.
Without protection, some informers will refuse to speak, for fear of being exposed.
One of the most serious consequences of the lack of protection is the endangerment of the physical integrity of journalists, those who work in dangerous or war zones, or those who investigate on organized crime. If journalists are perceived as informers to the authorities, or as future witnesses in a trial, they can become a target. That is why the Council of Europe, in its 2007 recommendation, asked that journalists shouldn't be required to handle in their notes, photos, images or records taken in a crisis area.
Protection of sources in Europe
The European Court of Human Rights has developed a constant and heavy case law in favor of journalistic sources protection since its decision in the Goodwin case in 1996. Since then, there have been many other decisions, all confirming the right of journalists to not reveal the name of their informers.
More than 100 countries in the world have adopted laws to protect journalistic sources.
In Europe, 11 countries have adopted laws or legal texts that guarantee, at different levels, the protection of journalistic sources (some of the countries adopted these laws after their condemnation by the ECHR): Armenia, Bosnia, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Island, Italy, Kosovo, Luxemburg, Malta and Slovakia.
Here, in the United Kingdom, protection of sources depends mostly on the capacity of journalists to defend it, even though it has been reinforced by the decisions of the ECHR in both the Goodwin and the Financial Times case. However, the Leveson report, that followed the News of the World scandal in which employees were wire-tapped, recommends that journalists should reveal the information they have when they are asked to do so. The NUJ opposed this recommendation, arguing that "if this measure is aimed at guaranteeing more transparency, it will actually make it even more difficult for confidential informers to talk".
On the other hand, Andorra, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, or the Holy See still haven't adopted constitutional or legal texts on sources protection, even if the Netherlands have drafted a bill that has to be reintroduced to the new parliament.
In Greece, case law guarantees real protection for journalistic sources.
In Belarus, where press freedom is regularly violated, a law, totally unfavorable to confidential journalistic sources, is in force: the law on media authorises courts to demand that sources are revealed "according to the necessities of the investigation or the interest for the case".
Journalists' sources are in danger
The war on terrorism provides an opportunity to access to journalistic sources, and we're more and more concerned that security laws also allow the violation of these sources. Dozens of countries have ultimately adopted laws on special search methods, and most of these laws give a lot of power to the authorities to, among other things, organise electronic surveillance without considering confidential sources.
The use of common communication tools, such as mobile phones or internet, put journalistic sources at great risk since the suppliers keep the data.
We must protect this data by all means.
- Matthew Rice, advocacy officer at Privacy International
- Luke Harding, foreign correspondent at The Guardian
Massimo Mucchetti, from Corriere della Sera Italy (video message to delegates):
Mark Thomas, NUJ member and comedian:
James Risen, Pulitzer prize-winning American journalist:
Joining forces and building alliances against mass surveillance
Chair: Chris Warren, federation secretary of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Australia
Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher for Human Rights Watch:
John McDonnell, secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group:
Jean Lambert, member of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee in the European parliament:
- Mike Harris, director of don't spy on us campaign
- Maddy Carroll, campaigns director of 38 degrees
Formulating the plan of action and next steps
Michelle Stanistreet, brings together the proposals at the end of the conference:
Global conference agrees plan to combat disturbing impact of surveillance on journalism
Journalists, trade unionists, politicians, lawyers and campaigners worldwide have agreed on a united action plan aimed at tackling the alarming effect of mass surveillance on global journalism.
1. FOR JOURNALISTS
Self-defence is key: Raise awareness and build a culture among journalists to be secure with their information and communications. Encryption and countless tools, often available for free online, must be used by journalists to protect their own work-in-progress and their communications with sensitive sources.
2. FOR UNIONS AND NGOS
Defend our fundamental human rights: Many of the laws that underpin citizens' rights, as well as protect journalists, are being chipped away at by governments. The UK government's plans to exit the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) may set a precedent for a pick and mix approach to human rights across Europe and the world. In the US the government's surveillance programmes have infiltrated most of the communications technologies we have come to rely on.
Save our sources campaign: Journalists and their organisations must get organised to begin dismantling the veil of secrecy around the use of intercept powers to get access to journalistic material and put pressure on the authorities to explain how and why they're being put under surveillance. As well as building campaigns and taking concrete action to defend every case where our ability to protect journalistic sources is attacked or where journalists are spied on, the courts should be used to ensure that governments' surveillance policies are consistent with national and international laws.
Rein in the surveillance superstructure: Over a year ago it was revealed how the NSA trampled on the privacy rights of citizens all over the world. Its mass surveillance has had a chilling effect on the exercise of our constitutional rights. The huge outcry should be translated into a momentum for change that would stop the indiscriminate collection of information and bring back surveillance policies under democratic control.
Subject access requests: In November 2013 the NUJ launched a campaign to find out about the monitoring and surveillance of individual journalists. Mark Thomas helped to launch the campaign and the union asked members to submit subject access requests to find out what information was held about them. Use the NUJ template letter to submit a subject access request to find out what personal information is held about you by the authorities. Go to the 'take action' section below for more details.
3. FOR THE MEDIA ORGANISATIONS
Proportionality: The greatest tool against the imposition of new surveillance laws, are the stories about those who are subject to them. Publishers should unite in a global commitment to highlight these stories through publications in their own countries, and potentially internationally through a dedicated IFJ portal.
4. BUILDING A GLOBAL MOVEMENT
Strength in numbers: Journalists and their sources are not the only victims of surveillance. We should be reaching out to lawyers, barristers, the medical profession, social workers, accountants and all other professions that rely on professional confidentiality, and build a strong and coordinated global movement to rein in the unchecked surveillance powers that our governments have misused over our citizens.
Conference delegates comment on the event
Jamal Osman, multi-award winning journalist and filmmaker:
Malcolm Dean, former Guardian journalist and NUJ life member:
Franco Siddi, journalist and general secretary of the FNSI, Italy:
Legal challenge – collective action by NUJ members
Six NUJ members have discovered that their lawful journalistic and union activities are being monitored and recorded by the Metropolitan Police. They are now taking legal action against the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Home Secretary to challenge this ongoing police surveillance (November 2014)
The NUJ members involved in the legal challenge include Jules Mattsson, Mark Thomas, Jason Parkinson, Jess Hurd, David Hoffman and Adrian Arbib.
All of them have worked on media reports that have exposed corporate and state misconduct and they have each also previously pursued litigation or complaints arising from police misconduct. In many of those cases, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has been forced to pay damages, apologise and admit liability to them after their journalistic rights were curtailed by his officers at public events.
Read the NUJ press release launching the case (Friday 21 November 2014).
Met's journalist files include details of sexual orientation, childhood and family medical history – Jules Mattsson
Times journalist Jules Mattsson is one of six members of the NUJ to launch a legal challenge against the Metropolitan Police after finding that it keeps surveillance files on them in a database of Domestic Extremism.
When police spy on journalists like me, freedom is at risk - Jason N Parkinson
Persistent requests under the Data Protection Act revealed that files were kept on journalists who were simply doing their job
IFJ backs legal challenge by journalists over police surveillance in UK
The International Federation of Journalists has joined in supporting six NUJ members who have taken legal action against the Metropolitan Police and the Home Secretary. The legal challenge concerns the monitoring and recording of their lawful journalistic and union activities.
Resources for safeguarding journalists and their sources
Journalists must be vigilant with security & communications
Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian's defence and intelligence correspondent, applauds the NUJ for its campaign and encourages colleagues to adapt to the challenges facing all journalists.
Human Rights Watch report: With Liberty to Monitor All – How large-scale US surveillance is harming journalism, law and American democracy.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism have filed an ECHR case challenging the UK government over surveillance of journalists' communications
A summary of the Bureau's application to the European Court of Human Rights
Get the court documents: The Bureau's ECHR application on government surveillance
Gavin Millar QC: Routine government surveillance of journalists' communications breaches international law
Who guards the guardians in the age of surveillance?
by Chris Proctor
Paul Lasmar comment for Open Democracy: Revelations by Edward Snowden, National Security Agency dissident, have grave implications for the role of journalists in the 'Fourth Estate' and the primary duty of source protection in the era of mass-surveillance.
Detekt is a free tool that scans your Windows computer for traces of known surveillance spyware used to target and monitor human rights defenders and journalists around the world.
Arjen Kamphuis's Information Security for Journalists handbook, co-authored by Silkie Carlo, published with the Centre for Investigative Journalism.
Book by Ross Anderson, professor of computer security at University of Cambridge on Security Engineering.
iSpy: How the NSA accesses smartphone data
By Marcel Rosenbach, Laura Poitras and Holger Stark
Sign the Press Gazette Save our Sources petition: Please take action to ensure the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is not used by public authorities to secretly obtain journalists' phone records and identify confidential sources.
Keep up the pressure to save our sources, says Dominic Ponsford, editor of Press Gazette.
SUBJECT ACCESS REQUESTS -
In November 2013 the NUJ launched a campaign to find out about the monitoring and surveillance of journalists.
Mark Thomas helped to launch the campaign and the union asked members to submit subject access requests to find out what information was held about them.
Read about the launch of the blacklisting campaign.
Use the NUJ template letter to submit a subject access request.
EARLY DAY MOTION -
Ask your local member of parliament (MP) to sign the early day motion number 352
EDM 352: SAFEGUARDING JOURNALISTS AND THEIR SOURCES
That this House is gravely concerned about recent reports that police forces have used powers contained in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to access journalists' sources and materials; notes that unlike requests made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 there is no public record of these requests or their frequency, extent or even the existence of these applications, and there is no judicial oversight or independent process to grant permission to use these powers; further notes and welcomes the Interception of Communications Commissioner's new inquiry that will be asking all chief constables how many applications under RIPA have been granted since 2000 to access journalists' communications, and calls on these findings to be made public; shares the view of Gavin Millar QC that the use of such powers contravenes Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of expression that enshrine the rights of journalists and news organisations; shares the concern of the National Union of Journalists and other press freedom and privacy campaigners that this constitutes an attack on the press which will make whistleblowers reluctant to speak to journalists and also make it more difficult to report in the public interest; and therefore calls on the Government to take urgent steps to legislate to ensure there are protections for professions whose communications must be subject to strict confidentiality.
Find out what your local MP has said on these issues and contact them via the They Work For You website.
Following his award-winning show Bravo Figaro, Mark Thomas returns to tell the true story of how he discovered his close friend was spying on him for Britain's biggest arms dealer. A tale of hubris, friendship, loss and undercover deceit told by an award-winning comedian.
Citizenfour by Laura Poitras tells the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden's efforts to lift the lid on mass surveillance.