New protections for journalists and their sources are expected to be included in the Investigatory Powers Bill (or snooper’s charter) when it goes back to the House of Commons next week.
The bill was passed by Parliament at its second reading in March, with SNP and Labour abstaining. But the opposition parties promised to vote against the bill in future unless further concessions were offered on privacy and the press.
The bill goes to the report stage at the House of Commons next week.
The proposed law details widespread powers allowing the state to intercept internet and telephone communications.
The NUJ, News Media Association and others are concerned about law enforcement agencies’ ability to secretly view telecoms data in order to identify journalists’ sources.
Under the bill, such requests would be made in secret by law enforcement agencies to telecoms providers and approved by judicial commissioners. The judicial sign-off is an improvement on the system which existed before Press Gazette’s Save Our Sources campaign led to a change in the law last year.
According to The Guardian, the revised bill will say that the judicial commissioner must consider “the overriding public interest” when authorising the use of communications data to identify a journalist’s sources.
The Labour Party is pressing for improved protections across the bill for journalistic and legal confidentiality.