27 Mar 2020 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 14 Feb 2017 n° 16/2017 United Kingdom

Proposal Set To Increase Prison Sentences For Leaking Official Documents

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
On 2 February 2017, the UK Law Commission responded to a government request for draft recommendations to overhaul and update the Official Secrets Act by submitting proposals which could lead to journalists and whistleblowers being jailed up to 14 years, instead of up to two years as at present, for leaking official documents.

The major overhaul of the Official Secrets Act – to be replaced by an updated Espionage Act – would give courts the power to increase jail terms against journalists for “obtaining sensitive information”, as well as “passing it on”.

The Law Commission, which was set up by parliament to review legislation and make recommendations for reforms, also proposed that the scope of the law should be expanded to include offences committed by people other than British nationals.

The public can respond and make comments on the recommendations until 3 April.

The National Union of Journalists' (NUJ) General secretary Michelle Stanistreet denounced the attempt by the UK government to curtail the media.
01 Dec 2017
On 24 November 2017, the Law Commission confirmed that, as replies to the open public consultation were being analysed, proposals to reform and rewrite the Official Secrets Acts were postponed until September 2018.
15 May 2017
On 1 March 2017, a motion tabled by Member of Parliament Helen Goodman (Labour) expressed concerns with the Law Commission’s recommendations, noting the vital importance of whistleblowers for democracy, press freedom and the well-being of the public.
10 Feb 2017
On 2 February 2017, the Law Commission published a consultation paper suggesting ways to improve the law on the ‘Protection of Official Data’, thus opening a public consultation until 3 May 2017.
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