The Uk government has put forward new legislation to counter national threats and emerged with the amendment in the Official Secrets Act. Journalists could be treated like spies for reporting on matters that humiliate the government under the planned reforms to the official secrets act.
According to the government officials, the new law was crucial as the existing legislation does not adequately capture “discernible and very real threat posed by state threats”. In the consultation run by Priti Patel’s Home Office, the 1989 official secrets act is being updated which accounts to protect the state secret and official information primarily related to national safety.
Reporters processing the leaked documents would not have any defense if charged under the act and would be treated the same as those executing espionage (spying) offenses. The government is contemplating hiking the maximum sentence any individual could receive from these charges.
However, the Home Office has claimed the law as not putting the journalist in the danger of being treated like spies rather they will remain free to hold the government into account. “Freedom of the press is an integral part of UK’s democratic process and the government is committed to protecting the rights and the values that we hold,” said the Home Office Spokesman.
These proposed amendments came as a result of leaked footage of former Health secretary Matt Hancock by The Sun, who was spotted breaking the Covid rules and kissing his married assistant despite social distancing rules. The Home Office stated that “the Matt Hancock scandal has relied deeply on CCTV footage leaked, and those responsible could very well face the consequences if the proposal has passed sooner”.
The Home Office in a statement announced that “in the same way as in 1989, it does not consider that there is necessarily disparity in seriousness between espionage and the serious unauthorized disclosures”. Considering the statements, Human rights organizations and Law Commissions have recommended applying public interest defense to the act to prevent journalists from being charged for receiving leaked documents.
There are continuous arguments based on the new norm and accusations to the government for blurring the disparity among those who leaked with those who received leaked information as foreign snoops.
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