English PEN is disappointed at dismissal of David Miranda’s claim for judicial review
English PEN intervened in the case as a third party, along with Article 19 and Media Legal Defence Initiative. As an organisation that works to defend the right to freedom of expression in the UK and around the world, we believed that the detention of David Miranda under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the retention of his property, including sensitive journalistic materials, was a disproportionate interference with his right to freedom of expression.
Miranda was assisting his partner Glenn Greenwald in his reporting for the Guardian of the revelations regarding the NSA’s and GCHQ’s surveillance programmes, a continuing story of national and international importance that is clearly in the public interest. The stopping of an individual assisting the reporting of the story, and the seizure of their materials, has profound implications for press freedom in the United Kingdom.
While the court recognises the substantial importance of the issues raised by the case, the judgment will expose any journalist covering a story on national security, who passes through a port in the UK, to being detained under Schedule 7 and having their sources or material seized. It therefore threatens to undermine protections for journalists that are recognised in international law and may deter future sources from providing information to the media in the public interest.
We are equally disappointed with the statements of the court regarding the role of journalists in a liberal democracy. In particular, the judgment questions the media’s authority to decide on publishing material relating to national security, stating that this is a constitutional role reserved for governments. We believe that this would limit journalists’ ability to cover stories of the greatest national importance and public interest.
Commenting on the ruling to the media, our director Jo Glanville said:
‘The Snowden leaks are one of the most important public interest stories of recent years. The court’s dismissal of the case may discourage both whistleblowers and journalists from covering similar news stories in the future, and undermines the media’s essential role as a watchdog in our democracy.’