8 Jun 2021: Opinion of the Court Delivered by Lady Dorrian, The Lord Justice Clerk in Petition and Complaint by Her Majesties Advocate Petitioner Against Craig Murray
One of the key factors contributing to the decision of the court to impose a previously unheard of draconian jail sentence on Craig Murray was that he was not, in the opinion of the court entitled to the same rights and privileges as a mainstream journalist.
Paragraph 4 of the judgement stated in disparaging terms:
“The applicant describes himself as a “journalist in new media”. Whatever that may involve, it is relevant to distinguish his position from that of the mainstream press, which is regulated, and subject to codes of practice and ethics in a way in which those writing as the applicant does are not. To the extent that the submissions for the applicant make comparisons with other press contempt’s, and the role of mainstream journalists, this is a factor which should be recognised.”
But only three weeks before the delivery of the opinion of the court in Edinburgh the UK government published proposals for the early introduction of legislation fully recognising the rights and privileges of “citizen journalists.”
21 May 2021: Online Safety Bill: New law will protect journalism from censorship
The media will have a statutory duty to safeguard UK users’ ability to access journalism under the new Online Safety Bill. The Government has made clear that content on news websites, including articles and user comments, is not in scope of the legislation.
Media minister John Whittingdale, speaking for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said; “citizen journalists will have the same protections for their work as professional news providers adding, “we don’t want the legislation to lead to a ‘woke web’ where legitimate journalism is censored. That’s why we’ve built in safeguards so that content from news publishers will not be in scope of new laws, including content shared on social media platforms, and media providers will need to factor in the crucial role of journalism as well as freedom of expression in their moderation decisions. A vibrant and free media is essential to our democracy and our Bill will make sure vital public interest journalism can reach its audience without interference. Ofcom will be keeping a watchful eye to ensure media platforms remain open and impartial theatres of debate. The bill will force the removal and limit the spread harmful content including child sexual abuse, terrorist material and suicide content, plus user-generated online fraud such as romance scams and fake investment opportunities. Mis- and disinformation is also in scope.The legislation will also tackle racist abuse. The Publication of content deemed “democratically important”, meaning anything promoting or opposing government policy or a party ahead of an election, or campaigning on a live political issue will be protected.
The pronouncement of the court in Edinburgh is at variance with the views and intent of the higher authority of Westminster. The judgement is imperfect and the sentence should be reversed.