UK plays leading role in legal threats against investigative journalists, new report says

For investigative journalists working on corruption, the UK harbours the biggest legal threat. It is the origin of more legal action against journalists than any other, apart from their home countries, a new report by the Foreign Policy Centre says.

The report, titled ‘Unsafe for Scrutiny: Examining the pressures faced by journalists uncovering financial crime and corruption around the world’, surveyed 63 investigative journalists working on financial crime and corruption from 41 countries around the world. The survey was conducted by the Foreign Policy Centre, a UK think tank.

“Investigative journalists uncovering financial crime and corruption are being subject to a significant amount of risks and threats, which has a chilling effect on their ability to continue to bring crucial matters of public interest to light,” said Susan Coughtrie, project director at the Foreign Policy Centre.

“Particularly alarming is the level and frequency, as highlighted by our survey, of legal threats being sent to journalists all over the world. The UK is the highest international source of these legal challenges – almost as high as EU countries and the US combined.”

Sixty-one per cent of respondents surveyed said that their investigations had found a connection, whether direct or otherwise, with UK financial and legal jurisdictions.

According to the report, 31% of respondents said that they had received legal threats from entities based in the UK, making it the “most frequent country of origin for legal threats” after respondents’ own home states (where 80% of respondents have received threats).

Seventy-three percent of respondents, the surveys says, had received letters with threats of legal action as a result of their publications, with civil defamation claims the most frequent reason (91% of all respondents who received legal communications).

“While progress is being made at the EU level to combat SLAPPs [strategic lawsuits against public participation], there is serious cause for concern that without adequate reform of the UK libel industry, cross-border legal cases – which we know emanate disproportionately from London – will continue to pose a major threat to international journalists reporting on financial crime and exposing corruption,” said Sarah Clarke, head of Europe and Central Asia at Article 19, an international organisation campaigning for freedom of expression and right to information.

“In allowing this abuse to continue, the UK government is not living up to its own stated commitments to protecting media freedom,” she added.

Fifty-one per cent of respondents cited a lack of financial support as the biggest challenge for continuing their work, then lack of legal assistance (49%), psychological support (35%) whistleblower protections (35%) and digital security support and advice (30%).

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» UK plays leading role in legal threats against investigative journalists, new report says | Thomas Rowley | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2020/11/02/uk-plays-leading-role-in-legal-threats-against-investigative-journalists-new-report-says/ | 2022-01-19T17:13:37+00:00
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