August 02, 2021
Plans to update and expand the Official Secrets Act have been attacked as a ‘licence for cover-ups’ that could be used to thwart legitimate investigative journalism
Are plans to change the Official Secrets Act a threat to journalism?
In recent years, some of the biggest scoops in investigative journalism have come about because someone inside government or the intelligence services has leaked sensitive information. There was Edward Snowden revealing the scale of mass surveillance being carried out by western governments, and more recently, leaks exposing who was getting lucrative state Covid contracts.
Now, though, investigative journalists in the UK are looking worriedly at a consultation from the Home Office related to plans it has to update the Official Secrets Act. This law, created in 1911 and last updated in 1989, makes it a criminal offence for government officials to reveal certain kinds of classified information – and for journalists to publish it. The Home Office is suggesting expanding the scope of what information should be covered by the act and extending the punishments for BREAKING it.
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