Select Committee on Armed Forces Written Evidence

Memorandum from the Society of Editors

  The Society of Editors has more than 400 members in national, regional and local newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and new media, journalism education and media law. It campaigns for media freedom, self regulation, the public's right to know and the maintenance of standards in journalism.

  The Society has always had a strong interest in the promotion of open justice. It has campaigned for rights for media challenge of reporting restrictions and for the media's formal rights of appeal. The Society is therefore concerned by the apparent absence of formal rights of appeal or judicial review of reporting restrictions imposed upon the reporting of courts martial. We understand that The Guardian has submitted a memorandum to the Committee which explains that this was the by-product of the Armed Forces Act 2001 in ending the power of the High Court to judicially review courts martial by amendment of the Supreme Court Act 1981. The end of the media's power to obtain judicial review of the order, combined with omission of any media right of appeal in respect of the order to the Court of Appeal, Court Martial Appeal Court, now means it is not possible for the media to appeal against any restriction imposed upon its ability to report the proceedings.

  The Society of Editors believes that it is important for the media to have the right to challenge restrictions upon access or reporting of courts martial with attendant rights of appeal. We hope that the Armed Services Bill can be amended to restore the media's formal legal ability to do so, through a statutory appeal mechanism.

January 2006

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