Journalists Face 14 Years' Jail for Exposing Leaked Offical Secrets; This Is a Full-Frontal Attack. the Intention Is to Stop the Public from Ever Knowing That Any Secret Agency Has Ever Broken the Law' Jim Killock, Chief Executive of Open Rights Group '

Daily Mail (London), February 13, 2017 | Go to article overview

Journalists Face 14 Years' Jail for Exposing Leaked Offical Secrets; This Is a Full-Frontal Attack. the Intention Is to Stop the Public from Ever Knowing That Any Secret Agency Has Ever Broken the Law' Jim Killock, Chief Executive of Open Rights Group '


Byline: Vanessa Allen

WHISTLEBLOWERS and journalists could face up to 14 years in prison for handling leaked official documents, under proposed legislation drawn up for the Government.

The new law would threaten whistleblowers and reporters with the same punishment as those convicted of spying for foreign powers, and freedom of speech campaigners warned that it poses a threat to investigative journalism and open democracy.

The proposals drawn up by the Law Commission form part of a major overhaul of the Official Secrets Act and would cover any official data that has implications for Britain's national interest and international relations.

Information that could affect the economy - including details about the Government's Brexit plans - could fall within that category and there would be no statutory defence for acting in the public interest.

Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of the campaign group Index on Censorship, said: 'It is unthinkable that whistleblowers and those to whom they reveal their information should face jail for leaking and receiving information that is in the public interest.' Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: 'The idea seems to be to criminalise the act of handling leaked documents, which would prevent the public from knowing when the Government is breaking the law.' The Cabinet Office asked the Law Commission to draw up recommendations for an updated Espionage Act to replace the Official Secrets Act. A 326-page report has now been put on the Law Commission website for public consultation until April 3. A Law Commission spokesman said it was 'misleading and incorrect' to suggest that the planned law changes would put journalism at greater risk. The report says journalistic activity is already protected by safeguards. The spokesman said: 'The current offences contained in the Official Secrets Act 1911 are broad. We are seeking views on how the law could meet 21st-century challenges whilst also ensuring people don't inadvertently commit serious offences. …

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Journalists Face 14 Years' Jail for Exposing Leaked Offical Secrets; This Is a Full-Frontal Attack. the Intention Is to Stop the Public from Ever Knowing That Any Secret Agency Has Ever Broken the Law' Jim Killock, Chief Executive of Open Rights Group '
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