UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced the government will introduce legislation to strike down a controversial UK law that will enable the government to prosecute journalists who cover up US military coups.
Lawmakers in the UK parliament are to consider a motion that would make it illegal to “deliberately publish material in a way that can reasonably be understood to influence public opinion”.
The move follows a British Government report that found the UK’s new “war on terror” laws have been used to “extort and intimidate” journalists.
In response, the British government has issued a statement saying it will not seek to overturn the legislation but is looking to see if there is a way to apply the law to “anybody who may have engaged in a public or private act of terrorism”.
Cameron’s move follows the resignation of US President Donald Trump, who in a tweet this week said he wanted to see Britain’s laws scrapped because they are “out of control”.
In a statement, the UK Government said:”We will not stand by and allow this law to be used to silence independent reporting.”
The UK’s draft bill, which was tabled in the House of Commons, is expected to be discussed in the days ahead, but the government has already called on Parliament to back its proposals to strike it down.
The UK was one of several countries to pass laws in the wake of the coup that have been widely criticised as targeting the press and media freedom.
Earlier this month, the US Senate blocked a bill that would have allowed the government in the US to prosecute news outlets and reporters who publish or “disseminate information that is critical of the president or a member of the Trump administration.”US officials said the move to ban such reporting was designed to deter future coups and the US government had been concerned that it would be used against journalists.
A spokesperson for Cameron’s office said he was “deeply disappointed” by the government’s move.
“The British Government has a duty to protect our national security and ensure that the rule of law is respected in this country,” the spokesperson said.
“We look forward to engaging with our US counterparts in the coming weeks on this important issue.”
In the US, the State Department said it would continue to encourage the US Congress to pass legislation that would end the “military coup” provisions of the 1917 Espionage Act, which criminalises “the disclosure of information relating to the national defense or foreign policy of the United States”.US President Donald Trumps tweetsThe White House said it had asked the US Department of Justice to review the bill.
“As a nation, we must defend our democracy and we should do that by upholding our Constitution,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.