Media group urges journalists to inquire if phone records accessed

NewsBrands Ireland says current legislation breaches right to freedom of expression

NewsBrands Ireland welcomed the decision of the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald  to establish a review of the legislative system whereby journalists’ phone records have been accessed. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

NewsBrands Ireland welcomed the decision of the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to establish a review of the legislative system whereby journalists’ phone records have been accessed. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The accessing of journalists’ phone records by State agencies breaches the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, according to NewsBrands Ireland, the representative organisation for 16 national media groups.

The organisation, formerly known as National Newspapers of Ireland, is to urge journalists working for its members, which include The Irish Times, to contact service providers over the coming days to ask if their phone or internet communications records have been the subject of surveillance requests.

Breach of freedom

NewsBrands Ireland welcomed the decision of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, to establish a review of the legislative system whereby journalists’ phone records have been accessed by the Garda, Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) and possibly other statutory bodies.

It said it looked forward to providing its views to the former chief justice, John Murray, who has been appointed to carry out this review.

Private information

Consequently NewsBrands Ireland was calling on the Minister, the Garda, Gsoc and the other bodies involved to clarify how many access requests have been made and granted in respect of journalists, who were the journalists involved, and why it was felt that such access was necessary and appropriate.

This information will form an integral part of NewsBrands Ireland’s submission to the review, it said.

The Irish Times has written to Gsoc demanding to know if any of its journalists have been the subject of surveillance and, if so, the identities of the journalists concerned.

NewsBrands Ireland is understood to be concerned that the review established by the Minister will look at the legislative framework surrounding the accessing of journalists’ data, and not the particular cases of journalists’ data being accessed which have sparked the controversy.