Free speech groups intervene in David Miranda appeal

On 18 August 2013, David Miranda was detained at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He was carrying journalistic material relating to the Edward Snowden leaks from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro, on behalf of his partner, the investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald. This material was confiscated by British security personnel.

David Miranda sought judicial review of his detention and the decision to confiscate his journalistic materials. On 19 February 2014 the English High Court dismissed his application. David Miranda is now challenging this decision by way of an appeal in the Court of Appeal. The use of Schedule 7 powers, powers which are designed to deal with terrorism, raises very serious concerns about the adequacy of the safeguards available in the United Kingdom for those undertaking, or assisting in, journalists’ work in the public interest, or their sources.

The written intervention by ARTICLE 19, English PEN, and the Media Legal Defence Initiative – the Free Speech Interveners – has been submitted to the Court of Appeal ahead of a hearing in early December 2015. The interveners’ submissions will focus on the very serious wider implications for press freedom of David Miranda’s case, if the decision of the High Court is allowed to stand. Barristers Can Yeginsu and Anthony Jones of 4 New Square Chambers are instructed on behalf of the Free Speech Interveners in this appeal.

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:

This is a crucial case for press freedom in the United Kingdom. If this is allowed to stand it could discourage whistleblowers from coming forward and undermine investigative journalism.

Nani Jansen, Legal Director of the Media Legal Defence Initiative, said:

The ‘war on terror’ is increasingly used to limit legitimate journalistic activities. The Court of Appeal should take this opportunity to draw clear lines around that and hold that journalistic activity cannot constitute terrorism, and that the fight against terror cannot be used to justify warrantless seizure of journalistic materials. Its decision will be important in the UK as well as in other countries; if allowed to stand, the High Court’s extremely broad interpretation of the UK anti-terror laws, including the delegation to individual police officers whether any particular person or activity can be considered ’terrorist’, would set a dire example.

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said:

The High Court appears to have endorsed the idea that journalistic publication could be construed as a ‘terrorist’ action. This is a serious threat to freedom of expression, and if allowed to stand it would set a terrible precedent.

Update

The full text of our intervention to the court is now available to read as a PDF..

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