2014 was the year journalists found out just how widely the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was being used by public authorities to spy on reporters and identify their sources.
Two years earlier political editor Tom Newton Dunn had refused to co-operate with officers on his sources for a story despite being threatened with arrest himself.
So the police obtained his mobile phone records and call data to his newsdesk. His sources, identified from the logs, were then sacked.
Since we have heard The Spectator’s Nick Cohen report that “the police now tell journalists that they have [used the RIPA Act to pull] reporters’ phone records in every single leak inquiry in the last ten years.”
Press Gazette’s William Turvill has reported on the council that used RIPA to spy on a local journalist’s meeting with a member of staff.
And he has also reported on RIPA’s possible involvement in “allegations of improper seizure of journalistic material … from a Sky News journalist.”
Two things to do
This month, you can do two things about that.
Firstly, you can sign Press Gazette’s petition to ‘Save Our Sources’ which asks the Home Secretary to:
“find out how many times public authorities have used RIPA to obtain the phone records of journalists and to ensure new guidelines are in place to prevent this happening in future.”
Secondly, there is a rare opportunity to contribute to a government consultation on RIPA.
The NUJ have helpfully provided all the details on their call to members to respond, including a template letter.
There are two weeks to get your letter in: the deadline is Tuesday 20 January 2015.
Send them via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org