At the beginning of the month the UK Bribery Act came into force, and while it is largely aimed at business corruption, according to the BBC, the provisions of the Act could also impact on the activities of UK journalists.
So this useful post on the College of Journalism website, by the BBC’s Kevin Steele, is a must read. In the post, he explains exactly how reporters could be affected and “fall foul” of the act, such as when using local fixers.
… what happens when your fixer says they can make the local bureaucratic wheels turn faster – and you can meet your deadline – if they make a payment or other ‘consideration’ of some kind to a third party who is in a position to expedite your request.
It is in situations like this that a journalist, and their employer, can fall foul of the new UK Bribery Act.
According to Steele the “wide-ranging” legislation can also affect non-British journalists from foreign outlets “with a presence of some kind in the UK”. And the employer is also at risk, he says.
One of the new provisions of the UK Act is that of corporate liability – so a media organisation can be held responsible in law for the individual actions of its employees, including freelancers or agents (such as fixers) acting on its behalf.
However, there is a defence if the employer can show that it had in place ‘adequate procedures’ to prevent an infringement of the legislation – even if evidence of a bribe can be shown.
The Act can be seen in full here.