Lord Justice Dyson gave campaigning investigative journalist Shiv Malik short shrift on Thursday when he appeared in the High Court to defend the right of all journalists to keep their sources secret.
Dismissing Malik’s judicial review challenge against a Great Manchester Police order that he give over all material relating to terror suspect Hassan Butt, Judge Dyson said: ‘He’s achieved very little… These proceedings should not have been brought.”
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Malik did achieve a partial success. The judges agreed that the original order was too broad and that he should only have to hand over notes pertaining to Butt, not those which would identify other suspects.
But in the main, they said he should never have challenged the order, and punished him by ordering him to pay Greater Manchester Police’s costs.
Thankfully, the National Union of Journalists and The Sunday Times stepped in to pick up the bill for Malik. But other brave journalists in future may be so fortunate.
So anyone making a similar challenge in future, to fight for their professional integrity, and defend a source on a point of principle, faces putting not just their reputation on the line but also their house and all their assets.
The three judges sitting at the High Court seemed to be living in a strangely removed twilight world, and their high-handed dismissal of Malik’s challenge did a disservice to the entire journalistic profession which had supported it.
Greater Manchester Police has praised the work of investigative journalists and says it has no particular axe to grind against Malik.
But the irony of this entire case is that the sort of work Malik does, which brought Hassan Butt to the attention of the authorities in the first place, has been undermined by their actions.
In future, those involved in terrorism may be much more guarded in their comments to journalists. And sadly, it seems journalists in such cases can no longer guarantee the sacred confidentiality of their notes.