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  1. Media Law
November 2, 2015updated 03 Nov 2015 3:41pm

New Investigatory Powers Bill will reportedly include protections for journalists’ sources

By Dominic Ponsford

The new Investigatory Powers Bill will include "measures to enshrine protections in law for journalists' sources", according to The Sunday Times.

The Bill follows David Anderson’s Investigatory Powers Review earlier this year and is expected to provide a completely new legal framework for surveillance by public authorities. It is due to be set out on Wednesday.

It is expected to replace the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which has allowed UK law enforcement authorities to secretly access journalists’ call records in order to identify their confidential sources.

In March, RIPA was amended following the Press Gazette Save Our Sources campaign to require police officers to obtain the approval of a judge before accessing journalists’ call records in order to identify their sources.

There remains widespread industry concern that such orders are made directly to telecoms providers without notice to news organisations meaning there is no opportunity for journalists to argue the case against disclosure in court.

The Sunday Times does not detail how far the promised protections for journalists’ sources will go.

If it follows the template set out by David Anderson QC in his Investigatory Powers Review, data requests made in order to identify a journalist's source would be referred to a judge for approval.

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He proposes that the judge would be an independent judicial commissioner working for a new regulator called the Independent Surveillance and Intelligence Commission.

In February a report by the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO) found that police forces secretly viewed the phone records of 82 journalists in order to identify their sources over a three-year period.

Since the Save Our Sources stopgap law was passed two forces have breached it by obtaining journalists’ call records without judicial approval, according to IOCCO.

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