The judgment specifically noted that the UK’s bulk interception of communications data and the regime for obtaining communications data from communications service providers violated Article 10 of the ECHR as there were “insufficient safeguards in respect of confidential journalistic material”.
RSF has long expressed similar concerns with regard to the Investigatory Powers Act, adopted in November 2016, which replaced the ‘Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act’ (RIPA) and gave statutory effect to mass surveillance powers in the UK. RSF had specifically advocated the inclusion of safeguard provisions for whistleblowers, journalists, and their sources, and cautioned that without these safeguards, the law could serve as a “death sentence” for investigative journalism in the UK.
“We welcome this judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, which reinforces the concerns that RSF and other rights groups have long expressed about the Investigatory Powers Act. This menacing law should be immediately amended to include specific safeguards for whistleblowers, journalists, and their sources, to protect investigative journalism in the public interest and prevent further erosion of press freedom in the UK”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.
The UK is ranked 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.