RELEASE DATE: 24 February 2014
Still in the shadows of the Leveson inquiry, journalists have been reminded, once again, that they are not above the law.
While it is right that journalists enjoy certain protections in law, they should exercise the utmost caution before they place others in vulnerable positions, say the Chartered Institute of Journalists.
This follows the ruling that the nine-hour detention at Heathrow Airport of an ex-Guardian journalist’s partner was lawful. David Miranda lives with reporter Glenn Greenwald who has written articles about state surveillance based on leaked documents.
Mr Miranda had taken a case to the High Court in London to claim his detention under anti-terrorism laws was unlawful and breached human rights. Judges felt it was a “proportionate measure in the circumstances” and in the interests of national security.
Dominic Cooper for the CIoJ said: “Journalists should not be using people as mules to carry material which they know may breach the law. The Institute would be the first to stand up for a journalist exposing wrong doing but this is not the way forward.
“Journalists are there to hold people to account. That becomes difficult when you encourage others to break the law on your behalf. Ours is an honourable profession and it is this type of behaviour that creates difficulties. It may encourage younger and less experienced journalists to adopt the view that breaking the law is entirely acceptable if you are working in our industry. A view that may well have led to the profession’s recent difficulties.”
Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Openshaw, made the ruling and said the police action was “not only legitimate, but very pressing.”
The 28-year-old Brazilian was in transit from Germany to Brazil when he was stopped at the airport, detained, questioned and searched by police. He was carrying computer files for Mr Greenwald at the time and had items, including his laptop, mobile phone, memory cards and DVDs, taken from him.
Mr Greenwald has notoriously written a series of stories about spying in the US and UK after receiving material from US whistleblower Edward Snowden, who currently has temporary asylum in Russia.
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. Website: www.cioj.co.uk