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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Continuing lack of oversight on secret snooping of journalists by state agencies

Press Release
Release date: 21 December 2020

The Chartered Institute of Journalists says there is a ‘continuing lack of oversight on secret snooping of journalists by state agencies.’

The Institute has analysed the latest report from the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office for 2019.

Institute President Professor Tim Crook says ‘There remains a massive Open Justice deficit in the entire system.’

The IPCO reported up to 50 UK government agencies made 116 targeted communications data requests in relation to journalists ‘whilst 15 were made to identify or confirm a journalistic source.’

It has further indicated that 17 applications were made for warrants under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA) where ‘the purpose was to obtain material which the intercepting agency believed would relate to confidential journalistic material.’

The CIoJ believes there needs to be more clarity on the identity of the law enforcement and public authorities applying for communications data relating to journalists and their sources, and the journalists and publications affected.

The Institute says the current system of judicial oversight does not have the same Open Justice access when the police or other state agencies have to make an application to a Crown Court Judge for production orders or access to confidential journalistic material under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Professor Crook observed: ‘The Snooper’s Charter process is secret justice that guarantees mystery and suspicion. We need much more information about the justification for warrants and communications data interceptions.’

More analysis of the 2019 report is available at: