UK definition of terrorism ‘could catch political journalists and bloggers’

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David Anderson said UK anti-terror laws were meant to give police powers to tackle al-Qaida-inspired terrorists, rightwing extremists and dissident Northern Irish groups. Photograph: Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Courtesy of Alan Travis @ The Guardian:

The current British definition of terrorism is so broadly drawn that it could even catch political journalists and bloggers who publish material that the authorities consider dangerous to public safety, said the official counter-terrorism watchdog.

David Anderson QC, the official reviewer of counter-terrorism laws, said Britain had some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, which gave police and prosecutors the powers they needed to tackle al-Qaida-inspired terrorists, rightwing extremists and dissident Northern Irish groups.

“But if these exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important they need to be confined to their proper purpose, and recent years have seen a degree of ‘creep’ in parliament that could be reversed without diminishing their impact”

In his annual report to be published on Tuesday, Anderson is expected to give three examples of how the terror laws were too widely drawn.

They included “actions aimed at influencing governments”, hate crime and what he called the “penumbra of terrorism”.

On the first, Anderson said Britain’s laws treated politically motivated publication of material thought to endanger life or to create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public as a terrorist act if it was done for the purpose of influencing the government.

He said in other European and Commonwealth countries the bar was set much higher and there must also be an “intention to coerce or intimidate”.

The watchdog said: “This means political journalists and bloggers are subject to the full range of anti-terrorism powers if they threaten to publish, prepare to publish something that the authorities think may be dangerous to life, public health or public safety.” Continue reading