A Green win for journalistic freedoms

The Government has adopted one of my amendments to the Counter Terrorism Bill as its own. The change will help to guarantee the rights of journalists and academics to view material and to do their job.

The Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill creates a number of new offences relating to terrorist activity. I raised a number of concerns about human rights, humanitarian aid and persecution of journalists.  In the debate, the Government Minister said, “I have heard, loud and clear, the calls for greater certainty for humanitarian workers and others” and went on to say “ I am therefore more receptive to the approach proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and my noble friend Lord Attlee in their Amendments 19 and 20.”

The Minister, having promised to go back to the Home Office officials and rethink the issues, has today tabled a number of amendments which address these vital issues of journalistic freedom.

Clause 3: viewing terrorist material over the internet

I raised concerns that journalists, academics and perfectly innocent people could fall foul of this offence. The Government has today brought an amendment that would make journalists and academic researchers exempt.

Clause 4: Entering or remaining in a designated area

I also raised concerns that the government’s attempts to stop people going to areas which are, for example, under the control of ISIS would make people such as humanitarian workers and journalists liable to criminal prosecution. She tabled an amendment at Committee stage of the Bill which would have provided a specific defence for journalists and humanitarian workers. I’m delighted that the Government has today tabled an amendment which create a specific legal defence for humanitarian workers and journalists.

Stopping the Government from stripping our rights in the name of terrorism is one of my most important duties in the House of Lords. Journalists and humanitarian workers contacted me to say how worried they were about some of the new laws in this Bill, which would have stopped them from being able to do their vital work in conflict zones. In Parliament it often it feels like I’m banging my head against a brick wall, so I’m absolutely delighted that the Government has listened for once and put these protections into law.