The newspaper industry warned that Journalists could be hit with long jail sentences if their stories upset the Government under sweeping reforms to the Official Secrets Act.
Reporters given leaked reports would be handled similarly to spies and face prison sentences of up to 14 years under proposed changes to the Official Secrets Act.
A consultation by Priti Patel’s Home Office wants to update the 1989 act to account for changes in the digital age, particularly around data transfer.
Human rights groups and the Law Commission, which drew up the plans, called for a public interest defence to stop journalists with leaked documents from being prosecuted, but the Home Office insisted such a move would threaten their attempts to prevent damaging unauthorised disclosures, which wouldn’t be in the public interest.
Now the News Media Association, which represents the UK’s national, regional and local publishers, has said the proposals will discourage whistleblowers from coming forward.
NMA legal policy and regulatory affairs director Sayra Tekin said that as part of any flourishing democracy, the public and a responsible press must be free to cast light on the state’s violations.
She said that the proposed measures of whistleblowers discourage whistleblowers from coming forward with important information which the people have a right to know and put a chill on investigative reporting which holds the government to account.
And she said that they strongly urge the Government to reconsider these measures and instead work with the industry to put proper protections for media at the heart of the Official Secrets Act so that freedom of speech is enhanced by the new regime rather than weakened further.
The organisation added that changes could criminalise public interest journalism by exposing reporters and whistleblowers to harsh new penalties.
The NMA warned that proposals for stiffer custodial sentences and increasing the field for prosecuting individuals could open the floodgates to the media and its sources being prosecuted despite acting in the public interest.
It added that a public interest defence should instead be introduced to the regime to protect freedom of speech and a new Statutory Commissioner could be created to give speedy redress for whistleblowers caught by the Official Secrets Act.
It said that the law mustn’t come at the cost of public interest press freedoms which do so much to expose wrongdoing, and veteran broadcaster John Simpson admitted that he probably would have been prosecuted if this had been law at the start of his career in the 1970s.
But now, anything that hinders the government, reporters will get 14 years in prison, and overnight the reports will stop so that the problem stops.
However, false news is rife at the moment, with newspapers never using quotes or naming sources, but dictatorship is installing itself – look at them, they despise us, but the people are the many, they are the few!
And this is shocking – now the Tories want to eliminate the free press if they don’t like the narrative, but the people will determine if something’s in the public interest, not you Priti Patel or your government.
The government got caught out breaking their own rules, so now they’re passing laws so that we can’t find out about it without fear of incarceration, and this is so wrong, and a government that’s not open and allows no criticism isn’t a government, it’s a dictatorship, but people keep voting these fools anyway.
However, Matt Hancock kissing someone in a hallway and then finding out that he’s been having an affair with her isn’t classified information, neither is the fact that he broke social distancing rules.