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Unsafe for Scrutiny: How the misuse of the UK’s financial and legal systems to facilitate corruption undermines the freedom and safety of investigative journalists around the world

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The second publication in the Unsafe for Scrutiny series serves to highlight two interlinked concerns:

– Firstly, the impact the UK’s facilitation of international financial crime and corruption has on media freedom, particularly when connected to political elites in countries with poor democratic records.

– Secondly, the enduring role London continues to hold as an international libel capital, despite reforms to English and Welsh law in 2013 intended to crack down on libel tourism, and the impact such legal action, or even the threat of it, in the UK can have on journalists here and abroad.


“The dual role that the UK plays as a hub for the facilitation of global financial crime and corruption, as well as for services that can be utilised against journalists trying to shine a light on this topic is disturbing. Vexatious legal threats, smear campaigns, on and offline surveillance – these forms of harassment are being carried out against investigative journalists globally with the help of UK based firms. This has a hugely negative impact on journalists’ continued ability to shine light on corruption and financial wrongdoing, which is compounded by slow efforts by the UK Government to implement transparency and anti-corruption initiatives.”

Susan Coughtrie, Project Director at the Foreign Policy Centre.


Edited by FPC Project Director Susan Coughtrie, it contains contributions from: investigative journalists – Clare Rewcastle Brown (The Sarawak Report, UK/Malaysia); Peter Sabo (, Slovakia); Pavla Holcová (, the Czech Republic); Dmitry Velikovsky (, Russia); Alina Radu (Editor in Chief of Ziarul de Garda, Moldova); as well as Rachel Davies Teka (Head of Advocacy at TI-UK) and Ben Cowdock (Investigations Lead at TI-UK); Nik Williams (Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) Coordinator at ECPMF), Laurens Hueting (Advocacy Officer at ECPMF) and Paulina Milewska (SLAPPs Researcher at ECPMF); and Jessica Ní Mhainín (Senior Policy Research and Advocacy Officer at Index on Censorship).

This report was launched with a webinar on Wednesday 9th December, International Day Anti-Corruption Day, with the following speakers: Clare Rewcastle Brown (UK journalist at The Sarawak Report), Pavla Holcová (Czech journalist, Founder of and Editor for Central Europe at OCCRP), Ben Cowdock (Investigations Lead at Transparency International UK), Nigel Mills MP (Co-Chair of the APPG on Anti-Corruption and Responsible Tax) and Susan Coughtrie (Project Director at the Foreign Policy Centre). You can catch up with the audio from the event here and the video here.

FPC’s project ‘Unsafe for scrutiny: How journalists around the world investigating financial crimes in UK jurisdictions face risks to their freedom and security from vexatious lawsuits (SLAPP) to violence,’ is being kindly supported by the Justice for Journalists Foundation.

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