A controversial legislation enabling the UK government to jail people travelling to war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria have become effective as campaigners express deep concerns that the new laws could lead to the imprisonment of journalists and press freedom activists.
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 came into effect on Friday against the backdrop of calls on the government to limit its “vague” definition of terror offense so that it would not affect the work of journalists present in war-ton countries or working on materials related to those areas.
Under the new law, people travelling to areas designated by interior ministry (Home Office) as terror zones could face up to 10 years in prison.
Border guards will also have the power to stop and search individuals without suspicion and simply because they want to tackle “hostile state” activity. Viewing of terrorist-linked material online could also be criminalized under the new legislation.
Rights campaigners and press freedom watchdogs have earlier warned about the implications of the new law for people who may wrongly be caught without any wrongdoing. They have warned that journalists, for example, could simply be stopped during their domestic flights and be prosecuted if they avoid answering questions or refuse to hand over materials.
The UK government has defended the legislation as necessary to prevent terrorist attacks by nationals who return to the country from areas of militancy in the Middle East.
Official estimates suggest that nearly one thousand individuals “of national security concern” have travelled to Syria over the past several years to join terrorist groups fighting against the government. Some 40 percent of those people have returned to the UK while about 20 percent have been killed overseas, according to the data.
The Interior ministry has also decided to revoke the citizenship of several nationals over their presence in Syria and parts of Iraq, a move which has sparked massive criticism from the opposition and activist who believe the government simply seeks to abandon nationals in conflict zones to dodge any future responsibility.
SHARE THIS POST