UK considers new punishment for whistleblowers

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The UK government is considering new laws that would target Journalists as well as whistleblowers if they found obtaining or sharing state secrets.

The proposed law overhaul of the UK’s official Secrets Acts (OSA) could lead to sentences of upto 14 years for handling leaked information. Current law carries the punishment of upto 2 years jail time and an unlimited fine. But it only cover the disclosure of such leaked secrets.

Advocacy groups argue that the plan is “full-frontal attack” on whistleblowers, with one expert describing the legislation as “squarely aimed at The Guardian and Edward Snowden.”

Jodie Ginsberg of the UK’s Index on Censorship told in an interview:

“The proposed changes are frightening and have no place in a democracy. It is unthinkable that whistle blowers and those to whom they reveal their information should face jail for leaking and receiving information that is in the public interest.”

Currently, the Official Secrets Act 1989 doesn’t protect the disclosure of “sensitive economic information.” The report suggests that a new law should take the sharing of data “that affects the economic well-being of the United Kingdom” into account, like Brexit documents, which could be helped by interception powers granted in the recently-approved Investigatory Powers Act.

A Law Commission spokesperson has said it was “both misleading and incorrect” to suggest journalists would be at more risk under the new rules. They added: “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.”

The body intends to collect feedback on its proposals between now and April 3rd and will report its findings later this year.

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