Freelance journalist Shiv Malik’s fight to stop police from seizing his notes ended this week after he handed over photocopied notebooks to Greater Manchester Police, as well as audio tapes and computer records.
Three judges sitting at the High Court last Thursday gave Malik seven days to hand over all material relating to interviews he had conducted with terrorism suspect Hassan Butt. He handed over the material on Monday after deciding that further legal challenges would be futile.
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But in the light of a two-day judicial review hearing brought by Malik last month, the judges significantly narrowed the terms of the original order sought by Greater Manchester Police in March.
The judges ruled that Malik did not have to hand over original notebooks – but copies – and that he could blank out information which would identify confidential sources other than Butt.
Greater Manchester Police had originally sought all source material for Malik’s book – Leaving al-Qaeda: Inside The Mind Of A British Jihadist.
Lord Justice Dyson, who was sitting with Mr Justice Pitchford and Mr Justice Ouseley, said: ‘In our view the form proposed by the police is the correct form of order, it excluded all material from sources other than Mr Butt – it applies only to material supplied by Mr Butt.
‘The originals of the tapes, video and audio transcripts should be handed over as should hard copies of computer generated material.”
Malik’s legal team had argued that ‘intermingling’could mean that this material could contain comments – made either by Malik or Butt – which would identify other confidential sources.
But the judges said there was no evidence that such material needed to be removed.
The judges said on Thursday that Malik’s claim the previous week that he had won a victory for press freedom was wide of the mark.
Lord Justice Dyson said: ‘He’s achieved very little by these judicial review proceedings. It’s true that we decided that the order provided by Judge Goldstone was somewhat too wide. In our judgment if that was the only complaint that Mr Malik had about the order judicial review proceedings, he should have attempted negotiations with the police to see whether agreement could be reached.
‘The real thrust of these proceedings was a frontal assault on the order itselfâ€¦ It is our view that these proceedings should not have been brought.”
He ordered that Malik, who has been financially supported by the National Union of Journalists and The Sunday Times, will have to pay both his own costs and those of Greater Manchester Police. The judges called for an interim payment of £15,000.
The court heard that Malik’s notes are needed because they relate to a terrorism trial due to start in September involving a defendant only described as ‘A”.
Malik was advised by his lawyers not to comment on the outcome of the case.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: ‘We are disappointed that they have continued with the production order but pleased that we’ve been able to ensure that the order is as narrow as possible.”
But he added: ‘Our belief is that their application is a fundamental threat to media freedom and we are discussing with a number of other organisations and legal experts the next stage of a campaign to ensure that journalists are able to operate without this kind of threat.”
Malik safe from prosecution
A Greater Manchester Police chief told Press Gazette this week that the force supports the work of investigative journalists and that it will not be seeking to prosecute Shiv Malik.
By resisting police bids to grab his notes, Malik may have committed offences under the Terrorism Act 2000.
Under Section 19, failing to tell the police you have knowledge of terrorist fundraising is a crime.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, head of the Greater Manchester Police Counter Terrorism Unit, told Press Gazette: ‘We’ve always recognised the value of investigative journalism. But in this particular case we think that Shiv Malik took the wrong stance.
‘We were always ready to negotiate with him but we were never given the chance.
‘We need to have the full material that relates to a terrorist investigation – we need to get to the truth. Hassan Butt said he lied during his discussions with Malik.
‘Investigative journalists have an important role to play – but Butt is presenting himself as a reformed Jihadist when in fact he’s a self-confessed liar.
‘We are looking at a man who’s said: ‘I’ve killed for killing’s sake’. We’ve got our role in society as well as journalists – the two roles are complementary.”
Press Gazette asked Porter whether he thought it was ironic that the police production order on Shiv Malik potentially undermined the very journalism that had brought Butt to their attention in the first place.
Porter said: ‘Shiv was deceived and I don’t think there’s any irony.’
He added: ‘We do not want to undermine the very important role of investigative journalism.”
When asked whether GMP would be prosecuting Malik under the Terrorism Act, he said: ‘We’ve no reason to doubt that he is working in the best traditions of an investigative journalist.
‘Our focus is on the material. That’s in the spirit of the most recent High Court proceedings. We’ve never suggested that investigative journalists need to be fearful, they’ve got a job to do.”