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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Law Commission agrees to consider law reform to protect journalists

Press Release
Release date: 28 September 2021

The Law Commission has agreed to a request from the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) to consider law reform that addresses the protection of journalists whilst at work.

The CIoJ formally asked the Law Commission to introduce increased sentencing powers for people convicted of crimes against journalists who are officially at work.

There has been a disturbing increase in threats and violence against professional journalists in recent years.This has been recognised by the government’s National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists and many similar moves in Europe to advance the protection and safety of journalists.

Institute President Professor Tim Crook said: “Over the last decade, not a week has gone by without reports of serious criminal threats, attacks and murders of journalists in the UK and Europe.”

The Institute has invited the Law Commission to discuss how greater protection might be achieved by legally enhanced sentencing powers in the criminal courts combined with a generic ‘public interest defence’ for journalists accused of crimes whilst doing their work and a statutory declaration of media freedom and independence.

The Institute believes that coordinated law reform could create a constitutional settlement, which protects the role of ‘public interest journalism’ in furthering democracy.

It could also operate as a deterrent against threats, intimidation and violence from those who strive to undermine the crucial mediating factor of ‘the Fourth Estate’ in society.

The Law Commission has written to the Institute saying that it has accepted the Institute’s ideas as a formal proposal to research the law surrounding the protection of journalists in their 14th Programme of Law Reform.

A decision on the subjects for the next programme of law reform is expected later in the year.