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In a letter to the Home Secretary of the UK government, Priti Patel, API-IPA and four other organisations of journalists have demanded an investigation into why British API-member Martin Banks recently was held and interrogated for six hours by UK border guards about his activities as a journalist, under the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act.

According to Banks, he was detained at the Eurotunnel border check in Calais (France) on February 26, where he was questioned about his work as a journalist, including a press trip he undertook to the Donbas region of Ukraine in 2014 and his reporting of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine roll out.

Banks was told he did not have the right to remain silent and was forced to hand over his passwords to his electronic equipment. He was released after six hours but his equipment, including a laptop and two mobile phones, were confiscated and not returned to him for another week. The UK border guards thereby gained access to Martin’s journalistic material and sources, compromising the confidentiality of his sources and his work.

“We are deeply disturbed by the decision of the UK Border Guards to detain him under the counter-terrorism act and to use that time to question him about his journalistic work. We believe that the border guards have abused their powers, resulting in the intimidation of a journalist and mistaking his journalistic work as evidence of terrorist intent’, the letter says.

Martin Banks is a long-standing API-member, a board member of the Brussels Press Club, and is accredited with the EU institutions and Belgian authorities.

The confiscation of his equipment raises further issues over intrusion into the work of a journalist and the protection of sources, a fundamental principle for the protection of media freedoms.

The letter calls on the UK Home Secretary to investigate the incident, to remind the UK border guards that journalism is not evidence of terrorism and to guarantee that no more journalists will be subjected to similar treatment in the future.

The letter was signed by API-IPA, the International Press Institute (IPI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the National Union of Journalists of the UK and Ireland (NUJ), and the Press Club Brussels Europe (PCBE).

You can find the full letter here.

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