New Espionage Act says journalists are enemies of the State
What is the point of journalism if it can’t publish things people don’t want to be published? A new Espionage Act drafted by the Law Commission would, says The Register, make it a crime to report on big date leaks. Reporting on leaks would be viewed in the same legal framework as spying for foreign powers. Break the law and face 2 to 14 years imprisonment.
You’re not a journalist. You’re a traitor.
The Law Commission’s consultation paper Protection of Official Data says espionage is something ‘capable of being committed by someone who not only communicates information, but also by someone who obtains or gathers it’. There is ‘no restriction on who can commit the offence’.
And, no, reporting on a leak would not be in the public interest. The paper says the public interest is not a valid defence. The State will decide what the public is allowed to be interested in. Their own defence is that it’s a matter of ‘national security’. But what is and isn’t covered by that term is undefined. You get the impression it could be anything – although not a need to hold power to account, a key tenet of any secure and democratic society.
So, if you know something is amiss in your arm of the State – if you want to blow the whistle on corruption and waste – handing data to a journalist will land them in prison.
And it gets worse.
The Register says places will be deemed to be off the news grid: ‘British Embassies abroad, intelligence and security offices, and data centres not officially publicised by the government would be designated as “prohibited places” or “protected sites”, making it an offence to publish information about them or to “approach, inspect, pass over or enter” for any “purpose prejudicial” to national security.’
So who was consulted by these State-approved consultants?
David Ormerod QC is quoted in the Telegraph: “We’ve scrutinised the law and consulted widely with… media and human-rights organisations.”
Oufits like the Open Rights Group (ORG) , an NGO listed in the report. But the ORG’s chief executive Jim Killock tells the Register: ‘There was no consultation. There were some emails with our legal adviser about having a meeting, which petered out without any discussion or detail being given.”