NS 'dismayed' at anti-terrorism legislation review

The Newspaper Society has condemned proposals to hold trials of accused terrorists in secret.

In a letter to Home Secretary David Blunkett, the society says it is “dismayed” by reports of the Government’s possible objectives in its review of anti-terrorism legislation.

It warns that since the Terrorism Act 2000 came into force, other legal changes have potentially increased powers of surveillance and access to journalistic material, but diminished protection of journalists’ sources and restricted investigation and reporting.

The letter from Santha Rasaiah, Newspaper Society director of political and regulatory affairs, added: “We would condemn any new restrictions on public scrutiny of the way that anti-terrorism powers are deployed, terrorism trials are conducted, or how both the victims of terrorist offences and those suspected, accused, acquitted or convicted of terrorism offences are treated.

The letter ends: “We can see no justification for automatic abandonment of the open justice principle for terrorism trials. Open justice must remain the overriding principle in all criminal trials, whatever the offence charged.

We hope that the Government abandons its plans for secret trials and consults media organisations on any proposals that are brought forward.”

By Jon Slattery

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