Government could end up in court over refusal to publish 'Russian interference' report

PUBLISHED: 15:09 13 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:33 13 November 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street, London, following his visit to Ireland. It has been confirmed by Downing Street that parliament will be prorogued at the close of business Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street, London, following his visit to Ireland. It has been confirmed by Downing Street that parliament will be prorogued at the close of business Monday.

PA Wire/PA Images

A news organisation is threatening legal action as it calls on the government to release a potentially explosive report into alleged Russian interference in UK politics and Brexit.

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The report produced by parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) was cleared for publication by all security agencies on October 17, but the prime minister has refused to publish it until after the general election.

The Bureau for Investigative Journalism (BIJ), an independent news organisation, has now launched a crowdfunder on Crowdjustice aimed at legally compelling the government to release the report before voters go to the polls.

WATCH: US TV host dumbfounded by UK government's reluctance to publish report on Russian interference

"We believe there is an urgent public interest in releasing the report before the general election so citizens across the UK have access to the facts," said the group in a statement.

The BIJ's editors include James Ball, who also has a column in the The New European.

The BIJ's statement said that journalists have "run out of road" in efforts to gain access to the report.

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"It is our duty as journalists to do whatever we can to bring public interest information to light, and it's that duty - free of any partisanship - that has driven our decision to launch this legal action to get this vitally important information into the public domain," said the BIJ's statement.

"We need answers to critical questions about Russian interference in our democracy. Questions like: Has Russian influence affected the direction of British politics? Did it sway the Brexit referendum result? How much Russian money is supporting our political parties? To what extent have Russian bots invaded our social media?"

In a letter to the prime minister, the BIJ said that he now has a "common law duty" to release the report.

The group's initial crowdfunding goal is £10,000 but they note more may be needed if the challenged reached a judicial review.

Ihe BIJ also noted that any surplus funds after a failed challenge would be used to fund their other journalism.

The BIJ appeal adds its voice to that of ISC chair and former attorney general Dominic Grieve who has rubbished government claims that the report should take a long time to release.

A petition on Change.org was also recently launched and has had more than 150,000 signatures.

MORE: Petition calling for release of 'Russian interference' report reaches six figures

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