Politics

Britain is treating journalists as terrorists – believe me, I know

Free speech and freedom of the press are under attack in the UK. I cannot return to England, my country, because of my journalistic work with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and at WikiLeaks. There are things I feel I cannot even write. For instance, if I were to say that I hoped my work at WikiLeaks would change government behaviour, this journalistic work could be considered a crime under the UK Terrorism Act of 2000.

The act gives a definition of terrorism as an act or threat designed to influence the government, that is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause and that would pose a serious risk to the health or safety of a section of the public. UK government officials have continually asserted that this risk is present with the disclosure of any classified document.

Elsewhere the act says the government means the government of any country — including the US. Britain has used this act to open a terrorism investigation relating to Snowden and the journalists who worked with him, and as a pretext to enter the Guardian’s offices and demand the destruction of their Snowden-related hard drives. Britain is turning into a country that can’t tell its terrorists from its journalists.

The recent judgment in the Miranda case proves this. David Miranda was assisting journalist Glenn Greenwald and transited through Heathrow with journalists’ documents when he was held under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act last summer. Schedule 7 means a person can be stopped and detained at a UK port for up to nine hours and affords no right to silence. It compels you to answer questions and give up any documents you possess, and so forced Miranda to hand over his Snowden documents. Subsequently Miranda fought a case against the UK government over the legality of his detainment, to show how this act infringes upon journalists’ ability to work freely. Outrageously, the court found politically transparent excuses to ignore the well-defined protections for freedom of expression (PDF) in the European convention on human rights.

If Britain is going to investigate journalists as terrorists take and destroy our documents, force us to give up passwords and answer questions — how can we be sure we can protect our sources? But this precedent is now set; no journalist can be certain that if they leave, enter or transit through the UK this will not happen to them. My lawyers advise me not to return home — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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