Free expression advocates respond to The Law Commission’s consultation on official secrets

On 3 May 2017 – World Press Freedom Day – a coalition of leading freedom of expression and media NGOs, namely English PEN, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières), and Index on Censorship, provided their joint submission to the Law Commission’s Consultation on the Protection of Official Data.

The Law Commission has suggested that any reform to the Official Secrets legislation should avoid any defence to persons disclosing information, or receiving disclosed information, in the public interest, and that the protected categories of information might be extended to include nationally-sensitive economic information.

In a joint response, the NGOs raise significant concerns with the suggestion that there should be no public interest defences, pointing to the operation of similar whistleblowing legislation outside the official secrets context in the UK and internationally. And they argue that the particular role of journalists demands a more sophisticated approach which seeks to balance national security interests with the public’s right to know. For further information, see The Guardian’s report here.

Can Yeginsu and Anthony Jones, together with Tom Francis of Joseph Hage Aaronson, assisted in the preparation of the submission on behalf of the NGOs.

Chambers has in recent years built a substantial reputation in the field of freedom of expression, acting in a range of landmark cases before the UK higher courts, foreign courts, and international tribunals on behalf of journalists, writers, publishers and international media organisations. For further details of this area of Chambers’ work, please follow this link to Public Law & Human Rights.