UK: Blogger Craig Murray jailed for eight months over “jigsaw identification” | Reporters without borders – Reporters sans frontières

Former UK ambassador and blogger Craig Murray will imminently begin an eight-month prison sentence related to his blogging on the 2020 trial of former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) considers the prison sentence disproportionate, and notes that while journalists must ensure they adhere to court orders with regard to witness protection, imprisonment in connection with any journalistic activity should only ever be a measure of absolute last resort, if at all.

Murray is expected to surrender himself to police on 30 July to begin his eight-month prison sentence for contempt of court after the UK Supreme Court refused the application to review his case. The charges stem from Murray’s coverage from the public gallery of Salmond’s trial on sexual assault charges — of which Salmond was aquitted — at the Edinburgh High Court in March 2020. Judge Lady Dorrian found that Murray had breached her strict order to protect the identities of witnesses, concluding that his blog posts would allow for “jigsaw identification” – apparently unprecedented grounds for imprisonment in the UK – for which he was sentenced in May 2021 to eight months in prison.


Many journalistic codes of practice – including those of IPSO in the UK – prohibit the publication of information which might identify victims of sexual assault.


“While journalists must ensure they adhere to court orders with regard to witness protection, Craig Murray’s prison sentence on charges related to his blogging is disproportionate and highly concerning. RSF emphasises that journalistic activity should not lead to prison sentences anywhere; imprisonment in connection with any journalistic activity should only ever be a measure of absolute last resort – if at all. It is certainly not what we would expect in a country committed to protecting media freedom and the safety of journalists. Murray should be released and alternative measures considered in lieu of his prison sentence,” said RSF’s Director of International Campaigns and UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.


RSF echoes Scottish PEN’s concerns regarding the chilling effect this ruling will have on reporting and free expression, noting that Murray is “the first person to be imprisoned in Scotland for media contempt for over 70 years.”


The Craig Murray Justice Campaign has cautioned that legal precedent will be set, stating that Murray will be “the first person to be imprisoned on the charge of jigsaw identification in the UK, and indeed in the entire world.”


Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Murray is also known for his thorough coverage of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange’s US extradition proceedings, which he wrote about in a blog series titled ‘Your Man in the Public Gallery’ on his website.


The UK is ranked 33rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.