CIoJ Press releases

Government plans to undermine the FOI Act condemned

Posted on by CIoJ in CIoJ Press releases, Freedom of Information | 1 Comment


RELEASE DATE: 21 November 2015

Government plans to water down the Freedom of Information Act and restrict its use by journalists have been condemned as a threat to investigative journalism.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists said the Government’s proposals were a blatant attempt to shut down embarrassing and difficult questions and were a clear threat to the public’s right to know.

President Paul Leighton said it was hard to believe that any Government which claimed to believe in Freedom of Speech could set out to reduce information about public bodies and government departments. “The Freedom of Information Act has blown a welcome gust of fresh air down the corridors of power and shone a light in some rather murky corners.”

“A government with nothing to hide should have no fears about the use of the FOI Act to put material in the public domain.  Tax-payers have a right to know what they paid for and is done in their name”

And Leighton has urged members of the CIoJ to back the Press Gazette’s campaign against the Government plans by signing the petition against plan the Gazette has launched online.

He added “The Justice Secretary claims that journalists are misusing or abusing the FoI Act. He’s wrong; they’re using it as it was intended – to make the activities of government and public authorities open to public scrutiny.”

Note to Editors:

The CIoJ’s submission to the consultation on the Freedom of Information Act (2000)

Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

RIPA amendment proposals not good enough

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The CIoJ has again come out to criticise the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, following government proposals for its amendment.

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The amendments simply do not go anywhere near far enough, said Paul Leighton. “We currently have a big debate going on about how far into someone’s privacy government agents are allowed to delve to protect the country from terrorism. But the concerns remain about the abuse of power, as has been seen with RIPA over the last few years.

“Here we have a government agency, in this regard police forces up and down the country, which has abused its power by using RIPA laws to gain access to journalistic records, which are protected by other laws. And have they used the information gained to fight serious crime and terrorism? No, so far the sum result of the use is to sack a couple of their colleagues who were at the centre of Plebgate.

The situation is, of course, made far worse by the fact that, so far, the police have refused to apologise for their actions. What hope can there be for the general public when these agencies are given even more money and power.

“There needs to be serious protections for journalists under this law, as there is under the provisions of PACE. Any request to access journalistic material should have to go before the courts where the journalist will have a right to fight the application,” Leighton added.



Government response to Weller privacy campaign welcomed

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The Government’s response to the Weller privacy campaign has been welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Journalists.

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In questioning from Baroness Smith about the rights of children to privacy, Lord Bates pointed out that the Press self-regulation system and the Ofcom code already contained safe-guards for protecting a child’s privacy, adding “We can deal with it [child privacy] in a common-sense way without the need to criminalise everyone who produces an image of a child.”

“Lord Bates comments are immensely helpful to the industry as it comes to terms with the court’s ruling in the Weller case,” said Paul Leighton, CioJ president. “The protection of child privacy is every bit as important as the freedom of the Press. But criminalising the publication of any pictures of children, without first obtaining prior consent from the parents, is plainly wrong. For one thing there will sometimes be a very clear indication of public interest, such as we saw last year with the schoolboy who killed his teacher while in class. On top of that, the pressures of workload will mean that it will not always be possible to pixelate faces before deadline. Considerations that do not appear to have been taken into account by those proposing the change to the law,” he added.

However, Leighton added the caveat that “Editors would be we warned to heed the warning about where they source their pictures. If the allegations about the behaviour of the photographer concerned are true then it would be shocking for a genuine press photographer to behave in this fashion. If it wasn’t a genuine Press photographer then buyer-be-warned; you get what you pay for. In this instance a £10,000 fine, plus costs, and an expensive appeal to follow.”



Publishers and journalists urged to stand firm in face of attack

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News release

Release time: Immediate

Publishers and journalists urged to stand firm in face of attack

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The killing of 12 people in an attack on a Paris newspaper has been condemned by the Chartered Institute of Journalists, which also urged publishers and journalists to stand firm and not be deterred from exercising their right to freedom of speech in the face of the threat of violence.

“This is a shocking attack on free speech, and all those who champion it. Our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost their lives and to those who have been wounded in this act of cowardice,” said CIoJ President, Paul Leighton, who also warned of the danger of being intimidated by such open violence following reports that some UK newspaper websites were blurring the images of covers of Charlie Hebdo.

“Journalists and publishers should stand together and stand firm in the face of these attacks. We need to show those responsible that we will not be intimidated into surrendering our hard-won freedoms. To fail to do so would be to hand victory to those responsible.“

Town Hall ‘Pravdas’ on notice to quit

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Town Hall ‘Pravdas’ on notice to quit


RELEASE DATE: 3 October 2014

News this week that the Government is taking action against 11 councils to clamp down on the frequent publication of town hall news-sheets, has been welcomed by a journalists’ body.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has campaigned against taxpayer-funded council ‘Pravdas’ for more than six years, on the basis that they are harming local newspapers and being used for local authority propaganda purposes.

This week it was revealed that legal action could be taken in a matter of weeks if these councils fail to stop or justify actions considered not to be in compliance with the local government Publicity Code.

CIoJ member Janice Shillum Bhend campaigned against the launch of bi-monthly Waltham Forest News which, according to the then managing editor of the Guardian series of local newspapers, was instrumental in the closure of their local office and several redundancies.

She said: “We at the CIoJ are only too aware of the damage that these ‘Pravdas’ have caused to local journalism, journalists and indeed local democracy throughout the UK.

“It is more than time councils were controlled and prevented from using our council taxes to tell us only what they want us to hear. Waltham Forest’s exercise in vanity publishing has cost residents in excess of £3million over the last six years.”

Formal notice letters about non-compliance have been sent to the councils. These are the first step to any legal action by the Secretary of State to require compliance with the Publicity Code, using his powers introduced by the Local Audit and Accountability Act.

The Code sets out a range of provisions on the frequency, content and appearance of taxpayer-funded news-sheets. This includes limiting publication to prevent competition with local newspapers.

The CIoJ’s campaign has been backed up by Local Government minister Kris Hopkins who said this week: “Frequent town hall free-sheets are not only a waste of taxpayers’ money but they undermine the free press. Councillors and political parties are free to campaign and put out political literature but they should not do so using taxpayers’ money.

“This is the eleventh hour for 11 councils who we consider are clearly flouting the Publicity Code. They have all now been given written notice that we are prepared to take further action against any council that undermines local democracy – whatever the political colour.”



Note to Editors:

  • Link to Government announcement here:

The Government is taking action against the London Boroughs of Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Newham and Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets Council in East London, as well as Luton, Medway and North Somerset councils over the frequency of their municipal newspapers.

The councils now have a fortnight to show why a legal direction the Secretary of State may choose to issue, is not necessary. Any council that does not follow any subsequent legal direction could end up facing a court order requiring compliance.

  • Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

Tribunal claims down 70 per cent

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RELEASE DATE: 16 September 2014

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Warnings that Government changes to the tribunal system were a charter for bad employers have come shockingly true, says a media union.

The IOJ, the trade union arm of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, is responding to a report issued (Sept 11) by the Ministry of Justice, showing that the number of applications to employment tribunals has fallen by 70% in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year.

“This coincides directly with the introduction of fees for tribunal claimants, a move which we robustly opposed in a consultation with the Government last year,” said Amanda Brodie, chairman of the Institute’s Professional Practices Board.

“We warned that charging would have the effect of putting off genuine claimants, and of introducing a justice system which would be used only by those who can afford to pay, and sadly we have been proved right.”

She said: “The Government predicted a fall-off of between 25-40 per cent in tribunal applications but it has come out at nearly twice that figure. No doubt many employers will see this as good news but the truth is, it shows that too many people are being denied access to justice because they simply cannot risk losing out financially.

“At the time we told the Ministry of Justice: ‘The system is already heavily weighted in favour of employers, who often have considerable resources to employ expensive lawyers to fight their cause, while the complainant is either unrepresented, or relying on support from a trade union or similar body. The funds available for legal representation from such bodies are limited.’

“The Government claimed the new charges would help to weed-out vexatious claims. At the Institute of Journalists we have many years experience in representing our members at employment tribunals. In our experience it is highly unusual for anyone to put themselves through the stress and potential costs of taking an employer to tribunal, unless they feel they have a genuine grievance. “


Note to editors:

“In employment tribunals, the number of single claims received in April to June 2014 was 3,792 – 70% fewer than in the same period of 2013, and a third lower than last quarter.” Source:


Institute supports Press Gazette petition on sources

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RELEASE DATE: 15 September 2014

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The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has pledged its support for the Press Gazette’s petition on protection of journalists’ sources.

“It is vital that all journalists get behind this campaign,” said Paul Leighton, CIoJ President, “because the protection of sources goes right to the heart of our work. If we cannot protect those who come forward with information we will rapidly see a decline in willing informants.

“It is shocking that police are allowed to smash the protection of journalists’ source rights in this way. It is clearly a gaping hole in the law. PACE regulations are the most appropriate means by which to access journalistic material, where a production order would have to go before a judge.

“The police need to immediately justify their actions in regard to Mr Newton Dunn’s information, and then give full details of how many times they have used RIPA to circumvent the rules regarding protected journalists’ material. If they can’t, or won’t, there is clearly something to hide.”

Sign the petition here –



Notes for Editors:

  • More than 500,000 RIPA authorisations will be given this year. So far the police have refused to confirm how many of their requests have involved journalists.
  • The petition comes in the wake of criticism after police used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to secure details of calls to and from journalists during the Plebgate affair. No prosecutions were brought. Four police officers lost their jobs.
  • Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.


Scottish courts to deny journalists access to information

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RELEASE DATE: 3 September 2014

The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has criticised a decision by courts in Scotland to withhold details from journalists before cases start.

The Institute claims the ruling goes against long-standing principles of open justice.

The Scottish Lord Justice General, Brian Gill, announced the decision in a circular to journalists last month.

In the past, journalists in Scotland have been able to see complaints and indictments for note-taking purposes before cases begin in court.

But Lord Gill reviewed the arrangements because of ‘significant concerns’ about revealing sensitive and personal data under the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998.

He said: ‘The current practice gives journalists an opportunity to attend and report on noteworthy cases. But it is now clear that the information being disclosed is excessive for this purpose.’

The decision means journalists will be unable to report the charges faced by an accused person, often at indictment level, before they reach court. Cases may be missed entirely if they call in court with no prior notice.

CIoJ Scottish representative, Campbell Thomas, said: “It’s absurd that journalists are being prevented from seeing information that is going to be made freely available in court anyway.

“It has already been established under the DPA that in current cases, the clerk will normally release information to the media if it’s been given in open court, unless there are any unfair implications for an individual.

“Up to now, the unfairness test has only been used when deciding whether to release information on cases after they had finished some time ago.’

Thomas added: ‘Lord Gill’s ruling goes against the century-old common law rule of open justice, where justice must be seen to be done. It will hinder journalists’ ability to cover court cases thoroughly and accurately on behalf of the public.

“We also do not believe it is acceptable for Lord Gill to mention the risks of the media breaching the Contempt of Court Act. This will create a chilling effect.

“It is up to editors to decide which pre-trial details to publish, and accept the consequences if they get it wrong. It is wrong of Lord Gill to introduce the hint of prior restraint.

“The decision sets a dangerous precedent in a democratic society.”

The CIoJ also believes that the decision goes against the spirit of transparency and accessibility for reporting set out in the 2012 Court of Appeal ruling involving the Guardian and Westminster Magistrates Court.

The court decided that journalists covering court hearings should be able to see case material to aid that coverage.

But the ruling does not apply to Scotland.



Notes for Editors:

Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

Support for Press claims over Harris

Posted on by CIoJ in CIoJ Press releases, Press Freedom | Leave a comment


DATE: 20 June 2014

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The Chartered Institute of Journalists has backed the two national newspapers who blame post Leveson paranoia for the police initially refusing to confirm Rolf Harris was being investigated.

Dominic Cooper for CIoJ said: “These actions are exactly what we warned and feared would transpire in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry. The biggest losers in this instance could be the additional victims of a sexual predator.

“Hacked Off and their acolytes have championed celebrity protection from the media and it would appear that on this occasion they largely achieved it courtesy of the police.

“Is this really what the public want or deserve? Do they want journalists fearful of putting allegations in the public domain? Are they now happy that during this trial a further 12 alleged victims came forward which means more cost to the public purse.”

Harris was placed on police bail in November 2012 after being interviewed under caution as part of Operation Yewtree, looking at all sexual abuse reports involving celebrities in the wake of the Jimmy Savile allegations, but the police protected his name. Again, when Harris was formally arrested on 28 March 2013, police did not identify him – leaving journalists unable to stand up the story.

Although Harris’ name did appear on social media the press did not dare report it until The Sun broke the pattern on 19 April 2013.

Mr Cooper added: “We do not want the excellent job newspapers do, scrutinising the actions of the rich and powerful, blocked by legal and political power walls.”





Notes for Editors:

  • The Sun says: “To their shame the Metropolitan police, revelling in the new culture of secrecy launched by Lord Justice Leveson’s abject inquiry, refused to identify him… even after his name was put to them for confirmation… . It may be too much to hope that the celebrities backing Hacked Off’s tribal war on the tabloids would ever pause to think what they’re doing. But let them not pretend, as they do, that Leveson’s recommendations have anything but grave consequences for our press and our democracy.”
  • In a second editorial in the Daily Mail entitled Secrecy betrays Justice they also raise the celebrity legal terriers which fired off aggressive threatening legal letters to newspapers – citing the Leveson inquiry – which argued there was no public interest in reporting he was under investigation for historic sex attacks.

The Mail argues that “disturbingly, post-Leveson, there are many examples of police holding, arresting and even charging suspects in secret”, adding: “This chilling practice is not only an affront to open justice and the hallmark of totalitarian regimes. It also hands a gift to predators like Harris who depend upon their frightened victims believing they are on their own.”

  • Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.


Press ban amounts to a gagging order

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RELEASE DATE: 20 June 2014

Attempts to ban parish councillors from speaking directly to the press are an outrageous attack on democracy, a journalists’ organisation has warned.

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is telling its members to adopt a new media policy which would prevent councillors from speaking to reporters without the written consent of the whole authority. The guidance also urges councils to adopt rules banning journalists from contacting councillors directly, with all contact made through the council clerk.

Amanda Brodie, chairman of the Professional Practices Board of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, said: “This is an outrageous attack on freedom of speech and democracy. The requirement to get written consent from the entire council before even giving a simple quote to a reporter, will make it impossible for journalists to do their jobs properly.

“Any organisation which spends public money must be transparent in its dealings, and co-operation with the press is a vital part of that process. These guidelines amount to a gagging order on councillors and simply must not be tolerated.

“Parish councils are the bedrock of local reporting and councillors must be free to approach journalists with concerns they may have, without fear of being disciplined for doing so.

“What we have been seeing in so many other sectors of public life recently is the whittling away at access to information, which leads to sanitised and often distorted reporting of the facts.

“This is death by a thousand cuts for our democracy and must be challenged – we are delighted that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced his support for press freedom by opposing this move.”



Notes for Editors:


Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.