The National Union of Journalists has condemned a growing culture of ‘intolerance for press freedoms’at its annual delegate meeting in Belfast and pledged to provide financial support to a journalist who faces ‘unprecedented legal action’by police.
The NUJ is backing the appeal of Shiv Malik, an investigative journalist who has been the subject of a court order under the Terrorism Act 2000.
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Malik has published a series of stories in The Sunday Times, New Statesman and broadcast on the BBC relating to UK-based terror cells
The union said the case was unprecedented because Malik’s source has revealed his identity to the police and already volunteered to speak to them.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear told Press Gazette: ‘Journalism is facing grave threats in an age of intolerance. While on the streets dissent is being criminalised, independent journalism is being increasingly caught in the civil liberties clampdown.
‘This case is of enormous importance to the future of investigative journalism. The police argue that it would be in the public interest for them to obtain Shiv’s notes, yet such action would fundamentally undermine the ability of journalists to do their work.”
‘Dragged to court’
Dear warned that the police now see journalists as ‘simply another tool of intelligence-gathering”.
Dear said Malik was ‘woken by armed police, dragged to court, subjected to a court order and instructed to hand over his notes”.
‘His crime? Daring to interview a former member of an Al-Qaeda-linked organisation. He dared to get behind the spin, behind the myth, to serve the public by exposing the truth – and yet for that he is criminalised.’
In his keynote conference speech at the union’s Annual Delegates’ Meeting in Belfast, Dear also highlighted the case of Milton Keynes Citizen journalist Sally Murrer, who will appear in Kingston Crown Court in November to answer charges of illegally obtaining police information. She denies all wrongdoing.
Dear said: ‘If the police win, it will become a crime to report what a police officer or any other public official tells them without authorisation or, indeed, even to talk to them.
‘If the police lose, it will be a victory for free reporting and independent journalism. That’s why we are offering Sally Murrer the union’s full support.”