NUJ to fight Coroners' Bill in Parliament

The NUJ Parliamentary Group is to challenge the new Coroners’ Bill which could prevent journalists’ from reporting inquests.

The Bill would allow a senior coroner to prohibit the publication of a) the name of the deceased or any interested person, and b) of any information which could lead to the identification of the deceased or any such person.

The application may be made by an interested person, which can be a spouse, civil partner, parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, child of a brother or sister, stepfather, stepmother, half-brother, half-sister or friend of long-standing of the deceased.

The NUJ said today that it believes this is not in the public interest and would severely hamper journalists in carrying out their work covering coroners’ courts.

The union said there is no allowance for the media to challenge the prohibition in the public interest, and there are fears that the ban could be applied much more widely than is necessary.

The Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) published a draft of the Bill in June.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “I have written to the DCA expressing the NUJ’s deep concern that this Bill could lead to a more general ban on naming, which would represent a worrying lurch forward of the privacy law.

“The government has specifically mentioned child inquests, but the Bill would apply to any inquest. While we recognise that reporting of inquests can lead to further distress, this Bill has the potential to severely restrict press coverage, even when it is in the public interest. As such it is an extremely retrograde step.”

The NUJ’s Ethics Council is to provide a briefing on the union’s concerns around the Bill and the Parliamentary Group will seek to get questions tabled at the Select Committee and raise concerns through other Parliamentary channels.

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