An urgent campaign has been launched for a “freedom of expression” law to protect confidential journalists’, MPs’ and lawyers’ phone and communications records being secretly snooped on by the police.
Senior editors and lawyers condemned as “wholly inadequate” safeguards put forward by Theresa May in December to meet concerns over the police use of surveillance powers in a code of practice linked to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa).
The critics of the draft code fear that the police will still have sweeping powers allowing them to authorise themselves to access the phone and email records of professionals such as journalists, lawyers, doctors, MPs and priests who handle privileged, confidential information.
More than 3,000 national and regional editors are being asked to sign a joint letter from the Society of Editors and Press Gazette, the industry’s journal, condemning the Home Office joint code for failing to recognise “the overarching importance of protecting journalists’ sources”.
The campaign comes as the prime minister, David Cameron, called for an extension of the laws that give snooping powers to security services with a plan to ban encrypted messages in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks.