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(satire – but see my comment below*)

A Guardian journalist has had his computers confiscated and was given detention for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities on suspicion he was spending too much time on his computer instead of revising for a spelling test.

The journalist** was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the English Language Terrorism Act 2000 after his report card showed he had refused to even begin doing his homework despite being told again and again to do it.

The controversial law, which applies only to Guardian or Observer employees, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain Guardian journalists who repeatedly make the same spelling mistakes in their articles and refuse to revise for spelling tests and their end of year exams.

The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally ground the individual for at least a week.

The journalist was eventually released from detention, but officials confiscated his electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles until he stopped talking back and showed some improvement in his attitude.

According to official figures, most detentions under schedule 7 last less than an hour, and the majority of Guardian or Observer journalists under the law are given a thousand lines ‘I must improve my spelling‘ to be handed in first thing on Monday morning.

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*I might look like I’m making light of this story, but anyone who regularly reads this blog will know I take the things I satirise very seriously indeed.

A couple of years ago, the idea that authorities could detain journalists at will (or even worse their partners) and destroy newspaper’s hard drives in the name of ‘national security’ would have been something I thought could only happen in China or other similarly authoritarian countries. 

But now it seems this has become normal behaviour for the authorities in the UK too.

In fact, if I had to choose the most important news story of recent years – it could well be this one:

David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face

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** Yes – I know it was the partner of a journalist. Artistic licence.

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