In a briefing to the House of Lords compiled with research and support from Doughty Street Chambers, RSF outlined its concerns over problematic provisions that the House of Commons failed to address in its consideration of the bill. RSF highlighted measures in Clauses 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 13, and 21 that constitute unlawful, unnecessary, and disproportionate infringement of the fundamental right to freedom of expression.
Specifically, the bill’s proposed criminalisation of the “reckless” expression of opinion, the publication of images of costume, the viewing of vaguely defined information, and entering or remaining in “off bounds” areas overseas could be used to restrict or shut down legitimate reporting. Further, the proposed increase in maximum sentences would have a chilling effect on journalistic activities, and the proposed increased powers to enter and search home addresses, and new powers of stop, search, detention, and retention and copying of material at ports and borders, threaten the confidentiality of journalistic sources.
“It is worrying that the House of Commons failed to address the serious concerns raised by RSF and other human rights and free expression groups over provisions of the bill that would threaten press freedom and could criminalise responsible journalists investigating and reporting on issues of public interest. We call on the House of Lords to strike these problematic measures from the bill, or at a minimum to include clear and specific exemptions for journalistic activities”, said UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.
The full text of RSF’s briefing for the House of Lords is available via download below.
The UK is ranked 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.