NUJ calls for no detrimental changes to official secrets laws

NUJ calls for no detrimental changes to official secrets laws


The NUJ has responded to the Law Commission’s consultation on reforming official secrets legislation, arguing robustly that editorial matters relating to national security, official secrets and the public interest are decisions best left to journalists. The union has expressed strong opposition to the measures currently proposed including making it easier to prosecute journalists and increasing the likelihood of conviction. The union maintains that media workers should never be criminalised for upholding long-standing ethical principles that are enshrined in the NUJ code of conduct.


Séamus Dooley, NUJ acting general secretary, said: “We have provided the Law Commission with ample evidence of past instances where the legislation has been used to threaten or silence journalists who have been reporting in the public interest. We have also demonstrated that NUJ members have a long and proud history of defending the public’s right to know.


“We hope many of the recommendations made by the Law Commission will be abandoned. However, if the authorities continue to pursue legal reforms then they should support our calls for the introduction of a public interest defence for journalists and journalism.”


The NUJ submission is attached for information and a summary of the key points are below:


  • The examples contained within the NUJ submission show journalists who have been threatened with the official secrets laws in the past have not harmed public safety or national security
  • Journalists who obtain or gather information should not be deemed to be committing an espionage offence
  • There should be a public interest defence for disclosures and for the publication or republication of classified/protected data received from whistleblowers and/or sources
  • There should be a defence of prior publication where the information published has either been lawfully placed in the public domain or has already been widely disseminated
  • There should be no detrimental changes to the need to prove damage and causing further damage
  • Prison sentences should not be increased to 14 years
  • The authorities should prevent the use of journalists as intelligence agents or cover.


NUJ Law Commission submission June 2017 (3)

Sarah Kavanagh

NUJ senior campaigns and communications officer


M: 07843549006

Long version of letter in today’s Guardian on the failure of war on terror. PL a signatory.

From 9/11 to the London Bridge Attack: Time to Rethink the ‘war on terror’

Today, 16 years since 9/11 ushered in the US-led ‘war on terror’ and with attacks now occurring across Europe and multiple wars across the MENA region, it is time for the West to reflect far more deeply on these matters. Whilst the attacks should be condemned and sympathies expressed for the bereaved, these actions will not address the ways in which terrorism has become interwoven with Western foreign policy.

To date, policy responses involving civil liberty crackdowns, threats to control the internet and repressive measures such as Prevent, which target entire communities, especially Muslim, have not been evidence-based and have, indeed, run counter to advice from experts and the security agencies themselves. Responses to the immediate problem of terrorist acts, such as those witnessed in London and Manchester, need to be much more intelligent and informed.

At the same time, simplistic and politicised representations of ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ terrorism vs. the West are wholly inadequate and are belied by emerging facts. It is now clear that, even as far back as the response to 9/11, the US sought to exploit this event in order to initiate regime operations against countries unconnected to Al Qaeda. The recent Chilcot Report quoted a British Embassy report stating ‘The “regime-change hawks” in Washington are arguing that a coalition … (against international terrorism) could be used to clear up other problems in the region’. The most notable outcome of this exploitation was the catastrophic invasion of Iraq.

More recently, the highly destructive conflicts in Syria and Libya have highlighted powerful inconsistencies regarding Western governments claim to be fighting terrorism. In Syria, the priority of toppling Assad has involved support, intentional or unintentional, for a variety of extremist groups and key allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been implicated in providing support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups. Indeed, the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia based on massive arms deals, and support in that country for ‘Islamist Jihadists’, has now become an election issue in the UK. Regarding Libya, the recent Manchester attacks have triggered remarkable claims regarding the possible relationship between the alleged attacker, Salman Abedi, and British security services and a broader policy of facilitating the movement of extremists between the UK and Libya to help overthrow Qadafi in 2011.

Responding to the dreadful events in London and Manchester requires level-headed policy responses and critical reflection upon the way in which Western governments have become embroiled in exploiting terrorism and even facilitating it. If we are to move beyond the ritualistic cycle of terror attack-condemnation-military response-terror attack, it is time to come to terms with, and bring to an end, Western involvement in terrorism.

Professor Noam Chomsky

John Pilger, Journalist and Documentary Film Maker

Professor Vian Bakir, University of Bangor

Professor Ruth Blakeley, University of Kent

Professor Oliver Boyd-Barrett, Emeritus

Professor Daniel Broudy, Okinawa Christian University

Professor Emanuela C. Del Re, University of Niccolo’ Cusano

Professor John L. Esposito, Georgetown University

Professor Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor David Ray Griffin, Emeritus, Claremont Graduate University

Professor Penny Green, Queen Mary University London

Professor Jenny Hocking, Monash University

Professor Eric Herring, University of Bristol

Professor Tim Hayward, University of Edinburgh

Professor Tareq Y. Ismael, University of Calgory

Professor Richard Jackson, University of Otago

Professor Jeremy Keenan, Queen Mary University London

Professor Timo Kivimäki, University of Bath

Professor David Miller, University of Bath

Professor Mark Crispin Miller, New York University

Professor Fredrick Ogenga, Rongo University

Professor Julian Petley, Brunel University

Professor David H. Price, Saint Martin’s University

Professor Piers Robinson, University Of Sheffield

Professor Salman Sayyid, University of Leeds

Professor Tamara Sonn, Georgetown University

Professor David Whyte, University of Liverpool

Professor James Winter, University of Windsor, Ontario

Amir Amirani, Producer and Director

Dr Nafeez Ahmed, Anglia Ruskin University

Dr Matthew Alford, University of Bath

Max Blumenthal, Author and Journalist

Dr Emma Briant, University of Sheffield

Remi Brulin, New York University & John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Dr TJ Coles, University of Plymouth

Sarah Earnshaw, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Dr Philip Edwards, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Lucy Morgan Edwards, Researcher

Muhammad Feyyaz, University of Management and Technology, Lahore

Dr Ciaran Gillespie, University of Surrey

Dr David Ray Griffin,

Stefanie Haueis, Fachseminarleiterin, JGHerder-Gymnasium, Berlin

Dr Mark Hayes, Southampton Solent University

Dr Emma Heywood, Coventry University

Dr Nisha Kapoor, University of York

Dr Paul Lashmar, University of Sussex

Dr Sarah Marusek, University of Johannesburg

Dr. Narzanin Massoumi, University of Bath

Dr Anisa Mustafa, University of Nottingham

Ismail Patel, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Peace in Palestine

Dr Elizabeth Poole, Keele University

Dr. Piro Rexhepi, Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Dr Rizwaan Sabir, Liverpool John Moores University

Cathrin Ruppe, University of Applied Sciences, Münster

Dr Joshua Shurley, Clovis Community College, California

Dr Katy Sian, University of York

Dr Greg Simons, Uppsala University

Dr Fahid Qurashi, Canterbury Christ Church University

Dr Milly Williamson, Brunel University

Stephanie Weber, Curator of Contemporary Art, Lenbachhaus Munich

Dr Kalina Yordanova, Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors

Dr Florian Zollmann, University of Newcastle

Tribute to the late Wing Commander Rex Sanders RAF (rtd)

Wing Commander Rex Sanders RAF (rtd) passed on the 10 May.

This is the initial interview I did with Rex in 1993 about his key participation in a series of top secret overflights over the Soviet Union in 1952 and 1954. This was the first detailed account of these remarkable and remarkably dangerous flights. A wartime member of Bomber Command, he had been the lead navigator on these flights. Rex later interviewed for my BBC TimeWatch Programme ‘Spies in the Sky’ that was broadcast in Feb 1994 and I quoted him at length in my 1996 books Spy Flights of the Cold War (Sutton). Rex passed on in 10 May 2017 and this is a tribute to his understatement and courage. Apologies for the sound quality. It was recorded on the balcony of his home in west Wales. I believe that Rex was the last survivor of the RAF crews that made these flights. In the picture below Rex is to the right of the overalled US commander who trained them on flying the RB-45C and to the left of the RAF commander Squadron Leader John Crampton. The picture below that is the RAF Team at their base of operations – RAF Sculthorpe.RB45C sq mixed Image 7 1952ish.jpegThe interview can be found here:

Part One

Part Two

RRB45C sq mixed Image 5 1952ish panorama.jpegSpyflights Book CoverSpyflights back cover


The University of Sussex is straight in (new entry) at No 10 in UK for Journalism.

One of eight subjects where Sussex is in top 10. Sussex overall is 20th in the country.

Well done Journalism team.




Espionage Act: recording of talk in Brighton – PL speaks on impact on journalism

The speakers discuss the Law Commission’s proposed changes to the Espionage Act. In order of appearance:

Javier Ruiz Diaz, ORG’s Policy Director
Paul Lashmar, Investigative journalist and academic
Tristram Hicks, Brighton and Hove Green Party Executive Committee

Organised by Brighton Open Rights Group at Friends Meeting House last week

A recorded discussion of the planned Espionage Act. The ORG policy director talks until 20.18, then Paul Lashmar, investigative journalist until 40.12. Tristram Hicks then pick it up for the last twelve minutes. The public consultation is still open until 3rd May.

Click here to listen

Interview: Paul Lashmar on UK: “They want to close down journalistic access to intelligence and security sources”


Interview for The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

by Jane Whyatt

In light of the UK Law Commission’s proposal for legislation that would treat whistleblowers as foreign spies and put convicted reporters in prison possibly for 14 years – among other rights violations – the ECPMF has interviewed University of Sussex’s Paul Lashmar at length.

After a successful career as an investigative reporter and news producer, Lashmar obtained his PhD from Brunel University. His research has dealt with the relationship between the media and secret (state) intelligence.

ECPMF: As an investigative journalist, what are your main concerns about what is proposed?

I work from the simple premise that a free inquiring press (news media) is vital for democracy. This is an untidy process but it sort of works better than any other model, a bit like democracy. As I have often said the news media have been the only effective oversight mechanism for intelligence. This is historically proven.


to read the full interview