HomeInsightsNews Media Association welcomes stronger protections for freedom of expression in new Bill of Rights

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The NMA has welcomed stronger protections for freedom of speech contained within the Bill of Rights (see item above) by introducing a higher test for courts to consider before they can order journalists to disclose their sources. The Bill proposes that no court will be able to require a person to disclose a journalistic source unless there are “exceptional and compelling reasons why it is in the public interest for the disclosure to be made”.

In a submission to a consultation on the Bill, the NMA said that the Human Rights Act had played “a central role in protecting freedom of expression” but added that some of the protections for freedom of speech had not functioned as originally intended. The NMA suggested several ways in which reform could enhance freedom of speech, including strengthening protections for journalists’ sources and re-examining what it calls “the worrying trajectory privacy laws have taken, which make it harder for the media to name individuals under criminal investigation”.

The NMA also suggested that the Government could “take the opportunity to revisit and strengthen the journalism exception in the data protection regime by removing the requirement for case-specific consideration of the exemption”.

Following publication of the Bill, the NMA legal director, Sayra Tekin, said: “The Bill of Rights provides an important opportunity to reassert the importance of freedom of speech in law and roll back the worrying creep towards secrecy. However, government must ensure that other, more misguided, provisions in the Bill do not undermine these efforts. We welcome the proposed stronger test for courts to consider before they can order journalists to disclose their sources and look forward to working with government to explore other ways in which freedom of speech can be enhanced by the reforms.” To read the NMA’s press release in full, click here.