Avoiding ‘Chilling Effects’ on Sources: a Practical Guide for Journalists

Journalists need to ensure that their attempts to hold power to account are not ‘chilled' at source by state surveillance.

To help journalists avoid ‘chilling effects’ on their sources, we have developed a guide to Protecting your Information and Contacts (in conjunction with the National Union of Journalists, and Dr. Paul Lashmar, City, University of London).

The guide helps match the surveillance threat to the kind of journalism that you are likely to undertake, and advises on taking proportionate data protection. It asks you to assess your risk, be prepared, and act proportionately.

We have identified four risk levels.

  • Risk Level One: You are a journalist who does not tend to do investigations or have confidential sources.
  • Risk Level Two: You are a journalist who covers a range of stories and have some sources you would like to keep confidential and you occasionally do some in depth or investigative stories.
  • Risk Level Three: You are a journalist who undertakes serious investigative reporting. You are producing journalism that offends the rich and powerful.
  • Risk Level Four: You are a high-level investigative journalist whose investigations may involve holding to account the intelligence and security services, or senior members of the government.

The full guide is available for NUJ members.

Abridged version  (The full guide risks giving away tricks of the trade to those who might hack and intimidate journalists, hence it’s only available to NUJ members.)