On the Monday 26th September 2016, Forward Thinking convened a meeting with journalist and political commentator Peter Oborne on the impact of Sections 19 and 38B of the Terrorism Act 2000 on journalism, in particular in reporting on violent and non-violent extremism. Participants included senior legal figures, journalists, producers and film makers.
Under Section 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000, a person has a duty to disclose to the Police ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ any suspicion or belief that another person has involvement related to the funding of terrorism. Under Section 38B, a person is committing an offence if they do not disclose to the police information that may be of ‘material assistance in preventing another person from committing a terrorism offence ‘or ‘in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of a person’ who has had involvement in ‘the commission, preparation, or instigation of an act of terrorism’. The punishment for failure to report is a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.
The meeting explored the heavy duty that the legislation places upon journalists to disclose, in the course of their journalistic investigations, materials and sources of information which may relate to these sections, and the ‘hidden’ impact of this on journalistic inquiry that pursues issues in the public interest. There is concern that fear of inadvertent transgression of this legislation is leading to journalistic self-censorship on areas related to terrorism and extremism.
The meeting follows on from a roundtable held on 20th April 2016 which brought together journalists, academics, editorial advisers, legal professionals and parliamentarians, including Dominic Grieve QC MP, Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee and David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation to discuss the impact of Sections 19 and 38B on journalists’ investigations.