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Not from the UK, but it is a mistake to insist on press freedom. There should not be a difference between a journalist and any other civilian.

Doing this will only lead to government trying to attack the status of journalist, which will drag people through the mud. Everyone is allowed to report on everything, naturally. Especially on government misconduct.

That said, for any practical reason, just give the info that hasn't been authorized for release to someone outside of government jurisdiction and keep your head down. Problem solved, info is out.




I think that's the point here though. Currently there is no extra protections offered to journalists than any other person. Everyone is "free".

This new law infringes on that freedom. It is reported as a law against journalists but it is a law against anyone who wishes to expose government wrongdoing.

They are politicising it as a fight for/against journalism, mostly because there is a large segement of UK society that have a strong disliking of journalists in general - many have living memory of several journalism scandals from invasion of privacy (e.g., "phone hacking scandal"), to dressing up as a "terrorist" to invade the palace (read: dress up in clothing worn by cultures in the middle east and, literally, blackface and then walk into the palace as a tourist and deliberately "get lost") to some general shitbaggery (e.g., The Sun blaming Liverpool FC supporters for the Hillsborough distaster)

It is so so important to remember/realise that a "journalist" is _anyone_ reporting or publishing something. Even just a tweet that exposes some wrongdoing by the government would get you nabbed by this law.


It isn't a law against journalists or against everyone. Nothing new is being introduced, all that is happening is that rules against disclosure of confidential documents are being hardened...but these rules already exist today.

Also, I am also not sure how the distinction aren't obvious: this is happening because a journalist, seemingly acting at the behest of a nation state, leaked confidential documents relating to national security. The UK already has laws that make this a criminal offence (and btw, the reason why the 1989 Act was passed was because someone did something very similar in the 80s, and tried to claim a public interest defence...this is not new). It is not aimed at journalists criticising the govt. It is not aimed at leaking generally. The purpose of this act is legitimate: to dissuade people from leaking stuff that is confidential for a reason (and btw, when journalists do get access to this stuff, they usually ask the govt what they should do anyway...obviously, this is changing but the situation that people are concerned about already exists, and hasn't led to lower levels of scrutiny...the irony of people who are relentlessly critical of the govt complaining about being silenced).

This is just like the policing bill. The media are misreporting what the actual content is (not to a huge degree, but enough), the noisy minority are getting their views from other uninformed people on Twitter, and no-one actually has a clue what is going on (I have read one story on this that actually quotes an actor's tweets...who cares?). Democracy in action.


> dissuade people from leaking stuff that is confidential

So it just dissuades people from exposing the govt wrongdoing the govt is trying to cover up.

If we’re only allowed to know about the wrongdoing the government does publicly we wouldn’t need investigative journalism.


It isn't dissuading people from exposing "govt wrongdoing". Information that is confidential is not the same thing as "govt wrongdoing" or non-public. No-one is being dissuaded because the same situation would exist before as after (this is something that reporting on this topic is eliding, this point isn't being explicitly but it is implied...and it is wrong).

And investigative journalism does not only relate to non-public information either. Every journalist thinks they are Carl Bernstein, and you actually look at what they write about and is just salacious, Westminster bubble nonsense that no normal human cares or knows about. So we have the situation we have today, and there is very little serious scrutiny of the govt. Ooooh, a top adviser went to Barnard Castle? Ooooh, a SPAD who has been leaking me stories was fired? Get Carl Bernstein on the case. Utter nonsense.


> Information that is confidential is not the same thing as "govt wrongdoing"

It can be, and that’s the problem.


So if the government is torturing people on UK soil for "national security reasons" and a Russian state sponsored journalist leaks it, they should or shouldn't be protected in your world view?


Correct, they shouldn't be protected because that is espionage. The "journalist" works for Russia, they are a foreign agent, they are just calling themselves something else.

Also, your comment is exactly why people are confused. People read stuff like that on Twitter and think...oh, now MI5 is going to come round to my house, and torture me...why won't the journalists protect us? There are already legal protections against the actions of security services because the UK has a functioning legal system. That is the main protection in our society. Journalists, most of whom spend all day on Twitter sharing salacious bullshit with other journalists, are not the protection (that was my point, in your narrative journalists are the protection but, ironically, they are the main source of misinformation about this bill because their interests are threatened).


The US constitution makes indefinite detention without trial illegal, same for torture and warrentless wiretapping. There is no stronger protection possible in our legal system, or any legal system that I am aware of. It is the duty of every public official, solider and police officer to uphold the constitution, they all take oaths to that effect. However all three have happened rather routinely over the past two decades and that's just the stuff we know about.

The UK would be wise to learn from our mistake.


> Correct, they shouldn't be protected because that is espionage. The "journalist" works for Russia, they are a foreign agent, they are just calling themselves something else.

Does that mean that you support prosecuting Snowden, despite the fact that disclosing mass surveillance is a clearly moral thing to do when the society doesn't know about it?

IMO, unless it's wartime, I couldn't care less about the motivations. I care that information has been disclosed at all.


"Freedom of the press" in US law just means the freedom to create and distribute media (as opposed to freedom of speech which is specifically about the spoken word). "The press" references the printing press not the news media or journalists who are in modern times called "the press" also in reference to the printing press. Journalists have the same first amendment rights as everyone else (actually they could be said to have less because for certain purposes such as defamation they are actually held to a higher standard).


Kind of works out to special freedoms when the govt limits the number of people who can observe events and hands access credentials out based on whether they are more legitimate-appearing journalists.


Why does the government have an approved press pool? When you think about it it’s completely barmy. Why don’t they do everything via press releases and let everyone access equally?


It’s a legacy from before radio, which sticks around because press briefings often allow for questions.

Q&A is useful because it adds clarity, but the format means they can pick which reporters to favor.


> Why don’t they do everything via press releases and let everyone access equally?

Because that's less transparent. From an idealistic perspective, sure, this is fine. From a practical perspective, it's bonkers.


Why is it more transparent to let a lot of unelected people who represent nobody ask questions? We already have elected people paid to do this job - HM’s opposition.


This is a good example of letting perfect be the enemy of the good. Because everyone can't--physically--have access, nobody gets it and the elected leadership gets to hide behind press releases.


The Opposition get it - that’s what they’re there for. And unlike the press they’re elected, paid, accountable, and recallable.


> actually they could be said to have less because for certain purposes such as defamation they are actually held to a higher standard

The higher standard you're referring to I think is the "actual malice" standard, but that applies when the target of the defamation is a public figure, regardless of whether the alleged defamer is a journalist.


Sensible definition and I think it goes even further as they have some privileges as they cannot be forced to reveal sources. I think these rights should be extended to anyone that fits the definition in the widest sense that it includes all type of whistleblowing.


They actually can be forced to reveal sources, the choice not to force them to reveal sources was executive branch policy not law and this policy was rescinded by the Obama administration. I think they realized this was pretty bad optics though so Obama and Trump mostly just relied on using their broad intelligence powers to track down reporter's sources.

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/aug/27/obama-administra...


Damn, of course...


> they cannot be forced to reveal sources

Is that the case? What legislation gives them that right?


There’s no such legislation.


> actually they could be said to have less because for certain purposes such as defamation they are actually held to a higher standard

Only because what they publish is, by default, going to see more eyeballs and thus more likely for the defamed party to wan to seek remediation.


I disagree. In my opinion, certain illegal acts (like breaking into certain websites, illegally obtaining documents, etc.) should be legal if done for the purpose of proper journalism. I don't want people going around hacking random websites to prove a point to the sysadmins, but I also don't want journalists to be silenced from exposing incompetencies in critical systems.

Sadly, modern journalism had veered more and more into the territory of activism, much more than it had fifty years ago. The Murdoch media machine is doing its best to accelerate this change of direction, as is the sensationalist new from the US.

With the current course of politics worldwide, extra protections for citizens is not the outcome I expect from abolishing journalistic freedoms. Instead, journalists will be downgraded to the limited and sometimes even oppressive rules citizens have in regard to freedom of information and conduct.

"Just keep your head down" is not a solution, because most people suck at OpSec. The government can and will find you if you release sensitive documents.


> certain illegal acts (like breaking into certain websites, illegally obtaining documents, etc.) should be legal if done for the purpose of proper journalism

This isn't the case in any country and almost certainly should not be.

In some countries, a journalist is generally free to publish anonymously sourced information, regardless of its source (which may have been a hack), and report on that information. Journalists are never allowed to hack websites. Hacking websites isn't legal.

Making some level of allowed-hacker as long as they're labeled a journalist would be crazy, as it would (1) result in the aforementioned semantic debate over who is a journalist, (2) would be the antithesis of privacy to have hackers that are allowed to hack you legally.


I think one of the reasons behind this proposed change is keeping up with changes in what it means to be a journalist.

In the UK, public interest has never been a defence. And given the increasing role that nation states are having in leaking stuff to journalists (even political parties, Labour used documents that were leaked by Russia at their conference in 2019 iirc...ofc, they were totally misleading, which was the point), it is reasonable to ask where the line with espionage actually is.


> proper journalism

Nobody's ever going to be able to define proper journalism.


No, but there is a public interest defence


On 10th July 2011 Rupert Murdock was forced to close his News of the World newspaper due to overwhelming public disgust that they had hacked the answer phone and removed messages from a murdered little girl[1].

Murdock originally tried to use "public interest" to justify that.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_International_phone_hacki...


> Nobody's ever going to be able to define proper journalism.

I've had a thought bouncing around my pachinko machine of a brain about this topic.

While at the single story/topic level you might be correct, I think there may be a pretty basic test for bias.

Using sentiment analysis, (manually or ML) couldn't you figure out which topics or groups a news org never speaks ill of?

The omitted criticisms could paint a pretty good picture of bias.


I honestly can't see how this would work in practice... It quickly falls into a "who will watch the watchers" kind of situation...

I'm trying to picture how it would work in practice. Say that there are two news organizations, one wildly pro-Trump, one Wildly anti-Trump. It's already clear that they are both biased and ignoring a lot of information. But wouldn't one group still be closer to the truth? How would anyone know which one?


That’s a very good point, and shows one of the limits of my line of thought. Though I don’t think it makes it entirely useless.

Using your example, pro-Trump vs anti-Trump… one would have to wait until Trump is gone as POTUS and see how each news org treats the new POTUS. Maybe this analysis would only work over long periods of time.

The other aspect of all of this that you made me think about is that bias is not necessarily bad.

I am biased towards democracy, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Also, bias against something which is objectively "bad" is not a bad thing.

edit: Maybe the solution here is to embrace bias, and state your biases openly.


Snowden (and others like him) would get a free pass under this system? How would governments keep secrets if any ole person could just share them. I know hilarious/embarrassing secrets from old workplaces and the military. Should I just spill the beans in a blog post? That’s “journalism” …

There’s real human consequences in sharing secrets and the laws somewhat reflect that consequence. Can they be too harsh? yes. We should fight against that if they become too harsh, but I don’t think they should be turned off.


> In my opinion, certain illegal acts (like breaking into certain websites, illegally obtaining documents, etc.) should be legal if done for the purpose of proper journalism.

Who gets to define what constitutes "proper" journalism? You? Me? The government? What you're saying is so far beyond absurd that I can't even really address it.




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