The letter from a coalition representing media from across the world has warned that provisions in the National Security Bill could have a chilling effect on journalism, creating a blueprint for authoritarian governments around the world to threaten journalists, activists and whistle-blowers.

In an open letter coordinated by the News Media Association (NMA), signatories representing news media and journalists from across the world called on the UK government to act to protect and prioritise media freedom, which is a means to "improve good governance and tackle corruption".

The letter, signed by more than 40 media organisations, expresses "serious concerns" about the National Security Bill currently before Parliament and "the risk it poses to whistleblowing and public interest journalism".

The signatories acknowledge the government's aim to update espionage laws to protect national security but say that the draft bill contains "broad and vague definitions that we believe will, even if unintentionally, impact on legitimate whistle-blowers and public interest journalism".

The signatories fear that clauses intended to target spies acting on behalf of foreign states could also be interpreted to cover individuals working for international media and non-governmental organisations, which could have a:

chilling effect on the legitimate flow of public interest information to the UK general public and create a blueprint that could be used by authoritarian governments around the world as a means to threaten journalists, activists and whistle-blowers with lengthy prison sentences.

The letter reminds the government that it is widely recognised that protecting and prioritising media freedom is "a means to improve good governance and tackle corruption". In the signatories' view, any action on this by the UK government would be "a significant marker to the global community, watched and potentially copied by allies and adversaries alike".

The letter concludes:

We believe the UK government can strengthen its espionage laws for the modern age, whilst ensuring there are meaningful and robust protections for those acting in the public interest and promoting the duty to impart information and ideas to the public and the public's right to receive them, specifically whistle-blowers and journalists.

For further information on this topic please contact Matthew Dando at Wiggin by telephone (+44 20 7612 9612) or email ([email protected]). The Wiggin website can be accessed at www.wiggin.co.uk.