Number 10 claims journalists’ Russia report FOI request was ‘vexatious’

PUBLISHED: 11:15 14 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:19 14 February 2020

Boris Johnson stands in front of Saint Basil's cathedral in Red square in Moscow. (STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson stands in front of Saint Basil's cathedral in Red square in Moscow. (STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Archant

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request surrounding the Russian interference report by a group of journalists has been dismissed as ‘vexatious’ by Downing Street officials.

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The Bureau of Investigative Journalism had sought to see the e-mails between the prime minister's office and the parliamentary committee behind the Russia report in the lead up to the general election.

Release of the communications between Downing Street and the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) could have helped to explain the decision to delay the publication of the Russian interference report, which is still yet to be published more than 100 days after the media first reported on the document.

Downing Street told the journalists that their FOI request would be refused because it was "vexatious", a term used for requests which could cause a "level of disruption, irritation or distress".

At the time Dominic Grieve, then the ISC chairman, said the decision to delay its publication until after the election was "jaw-dropping".

After the election officials said that Johnson had approved the publication of the document - expected to be heavily redacted - but the ISC must reform first before it can be published.

The journalists behind the attempt to uncover the communications surround the report have accused the latest block as a "cover-up" of the cover-up".

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

Rachel Oldroyd, the Bureau's managing editor said: "Boris Johnson has been accused by his critics of a 'cover-up' by blocking the release of the Russia report. Blocking the publication of correspondence around that decision could look like a cover-up of the cover-up.

"The Bureau has only ever been interested in securing the report - and scrutinising the decision to block it - in the spirit of informing the public and keeping government transparent. This decision threatens those goals."

The Bureau is now appealing the decision and could take up the case with the Information Commissioner's Office.

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