Editors, reporters, media lawyers and press freedom campaigners are among nearly 600 people who have signed up to Pess Gazette's Save Our Sources campaign.
Set up a week ago, the Change.org petition, which can be found here, calls on the Interception of Communications Commissionerto ensure that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is not used by public authorities to secretly obtain journalists' phone records and identify confidential sources.
Such action is believed by many to be a breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights with gives the highest possible protection to journalists' sources.
Press Gazette started the campaign at the end of last week shortly after it emerged that the Met Police had used RIPA to secretly obtain the phone records of Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn – a signatory of the petition – and details of calls made to The Sun newsdesk in order to find three officers accused of leaking information about the Plebgate affair. The officers were not found to have broken the law, but were sacked anyway.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, Sun editor David Dinsmore (below), Spectator editor Fraser Nelson and Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear are among those who have so far supported the petition.
Freedom of press means freedom to protect sources.
In addition to these editors, investigative reporters and editors such as Nick Davies of The Guardian, Stephen Wright of the Daily Mail, Tom Harper of The Independent, Paul Lewis of The Guardian, hacking trial blogger Peter Jukes and Brian Flynn of The Sun, have put their names to the petition.
We do not want to live in a police state.
Journalists should be able to protect sources and information from police intrusion.
I'm signing because the Metropolitan Police have cynically twisted the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed the Yard into an opportunity to clamp down on whistleblowers, including from the police, speaking to the media. This is a genuinely worrying development that is, in my experience, unquestionably counter to the public interest. I am aware of specific examples where the Met is attempting to criminalise public interest whistleblowers to protect its own reputation and the abuse of RIPA offers them even more opportunities to do so. This is not self-interest, this is real and affects the ability of the media to act as an effective check and balance on the State. Please sign this petition.
National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet (below), her predecessor Jeremy Dear, Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell, NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher and Dominic Cooper and Paul Francis, of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, have also shown their support.
It is essential that journalist’s sources are protected at all costs. Only then will those who seek to shine the light on wrong doing be able to trust in the confidentiality offered by journalists.
Stanistreet today announced plans for the NUJ to join “forces with Press Gazette and other allies to campaign against the targeting of journalists and the criminalisation of our sources”.
Protecting our sources is a fundamental duty of all journalists and the cornerstone of the NUJ's code of conduct. That responsibility is under threat as never before,
It is an outrage that journalists are being spied on, that their phone records have been secretly pored over, their communications seized – all in order to target, identify and out sources who have turned to reporters in order to bring vital information to the public's attention. The Met's misuse of RIPA legislation, by-passing assurances and processes set out under PACE, to obtain information covertly without judicial process or oversight, is a disgrace that must be urgently addressed.
The campaign has also received the support of former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade, who is now a media columnist, former BBC presenter Robin Lustig, former head of BBC global news Richard Sambrook and former Times managing editor, turned head of journalism at City University, George Brock.
Confidential sources are essential to the free circulation of significant information in democracies. Sources must be able to trust the promise of confidence.
Other signatories include former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis (pictured, Reuters), current Sun managing editor Stig Abell, Oxford Mail and Oxford Times editor Simon O’Neill, Trinity Mirror editorial director Neil Benson, former Sun deputy editor Fergus Shanahan and Mail on Sunday deputy news editor David Rose.
As a journalist I am concerned about creeping secrecy and media suppression by state organisations.
Media law experts David Allen Green (legal columnist for the Financial Times), Mark Hanna (joint author McNae's) and Caroline Kean (partner at law firm Wiggin) have also signed.
It should be obvious: protections in law for free speech should not be so easily avoided by using an act that was never originally designed for that purpose.
I am co-author of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists. I fear that such unaccountable use of RIPA powers threatens journalists' ability to investigate powerful, state agencies.
Local newspaper reporter Sally Murrer, who herself was arrested and put on trial in 2008 for simply having off the record conversations with a police contact, said:
After being a journalist victim of police using RIPA and other underhand means to obtain my sources and other confidential information, I support this petition with all my heart. I really hoped my case would stop police using such bully-boy tactics against journalists. Sadly it seems to have made the situation worse.
Here is a full list of signatories so far:
Tom Newton Dunn
Dominic Cooper CIoJ
Paul Francis Leighton FCIJ
ciaran mc clean
Francesca Di Renzo
David CC Ewen
Maureen Loo on
David Allen Green
Mei Wan Chang
Robin Callender Smith
Michael Moriarty, FCIJ
Mathieu Kroon Gutiérrez
M. da Rui
linda mc elwee
Ben De pear