Non-profit organisation The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) has launched a £40,000 crowdfunding campaign to take the UK Government to court over its refusal to publish the report into Russian interference into British politics.
A report by parliament’s cross-party Intelligence Services Committee (ISC), finalised in March this year and sent to Downing Street last month, examines allegations that Russian activity influenced the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum and the 2017 general election.
Delays in publishing the report - for "standard security clearance" reasons - have been met by criticism, even from the chair of the ISC, for withholding crucial public interest information ahead of the UK’s 2019 general election in December.
Rachel Oldroyd, managing editor, TBIJ explained that journalists have been trying for weeks to get the report published. But at this stage, there is not enough time to go down the FOI request route and get the findings published before the public heads to the polls.
Left with little other options, the organisation has turned to crowdfunding to start legal proceedings next week in the pursuit of publishing the report.
"We have run out of road and decided as journalists we still have a duty to help get the information to the public, so have resorted to legal action," she explained.
At least £10,000 was initially needed to go to court and an initial cap of £30,000 - the full crowdfunding amount - was set. However, after this met, this cap was increased with a new target of £40,000.
Should the Bureau not hear from Downing Street regarding publication of the report, lawyers for the TBIJ intend to file for a judicial review tomorrow (19 November 2019).
This would enable the case to be sustained through a predictably drawn-out process. Leftover money from the case will be put towards subsequent journalism. Since launching the campaign last week (13 November 2019), the fundraiser has received more than £40,000 in four days.
"I think it shows there is a genuine public interest and concern about this - this is not about us as journalists getting a story out," Oldroyd said.
"This is about meddling with elections and democracy. The whole select committee wants this published, it’s not as if there are voices saying we don’t want it published. It’s suppression."
Note: This article was updated on 18 November 2019 by Daniel Green. The initial crowdfunding campaign target was reported as £30,000. Since publication of the original article, the target has increased to £40,000 and the article has been updated to reflect this.