UK national security bill threat to whistleblowers

The AEJ UK joined more than 30 other journalistic and media freedom organisations in signing a letter in The Times warning that the National Security Bill currently before parliament lacks the necessary robust protections for whistleblowers and journalists.

The signatories said this could have a chilling effect on the flow of public interest information, creating “a blueprint for authoritarian governments” to threaten journalists and others with lengthy prison sentences.

Here is the text of the letter and list of signatories:   

Whistleblowing under threat

We write as a group of global journalism and media freedom organisations to express our serious concerns about the National Security Bill before parliament, and the risk it poses to whistleblowing and public interest journalism. Although we understand the government’s aim to update its espionage laws to protect national security, the bill contains broad definitions that we believe will, even if unintentionally, have an impact on legitimate whistleblowers and public interest journalism.

Clauses intended to target spies acting on behalf of foreign states could also bring individuals working for international media and non-governmental organisations, many of which legitimately receive funding from foreign states, within the scope of the bill. This could have a chilling effect on the legitimate flow of public interest information, creating a blueprint for authoritarian governments to threaten journalists, activists and whistleblowers with lengthy prison sentences.

We believe the government can strengthen its espionage laws for the modern age while ensuring that there are meaningful and robust protections for those acting in the public interest, specifically whistleblowers and journalists.

Elisabet Cantenys, ACOS Alliance (A Culture of Safety Alliance)
Cristina Zaha, Secretariat Executive, Abraji (Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism)
Sasmito Madrim, President, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Indonesia
Simon Spanswick, CEO, Association for International Broadcasting
William Horsley, Association of European Journalists (UK chairman)
Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Ex President, Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists
Lord Black of Brentwood, Chairman, Commonwealth Press Union
Jason Kint, CEO, Digital Content Next
Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN
Angela Mills-Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers’ Council (EPC)
Ruth Kronenburg, Executive Director, Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
Modou S Joof, Secretary General, Gambia Press Union (GPU)
Rachael Kay, Executive Director, IFEX
Martin Bright, Editor at Large, Index on Censorship
Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists
Frane Maroević, Executive Director, International Press Institute (IPI)
Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists
Owen Meredith, CEO, News Media Association
Wout van Wijk, Executive Director, News Media Europe
Media Defence
Milica Pesic, Executive Director, Media Diversity Institute (MDI), London
Mariam Gersamia, Chairwoman, Media and Communication Educational and Research Center “Media Voice” (Georgia)
Tabani Moyo, Regional Director, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
William Bird, Director, Media Monitoring Africa
Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General, Pakistan Press Foundation
Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director, PEN International
Rebecca Vincent, Director of Operations and Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Clothilde Redfern, Director, Rory Peck Trust
Dawn Alford, Executive Director, Society of Editors
Oliver Vujovic, Secretary General, South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO);
World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Pakistan
Deborah Bonetti, Director, the Foreign Press Association
Liz Corbin, Deputy Director of Media and Head of News, European Broadcasting Union (EBU)
Quinn McKew, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19
Gypsy Guillén Kaiser, Advocacy and Communications Director, Committee to Protect Journalists
Ahmad Quraishi, Executive Director, Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC)
Kristian Porter, CEO, Public Media Alliance
Drew Sullivan, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project