The UK government is considering changing the law to make it harder for journalists to report stories that expose the wrongdoing, criminality or basic stupidity of politicians and other people who are in positions of power.
The government wants to do this by strengthening the Official Secrets Act, which is normally used to protect state secrets from espionage. And it wants to make it harder, if not impossible, for journalists to use “public interest” as a defence.
This article from The Guardian explains what’s happening.
The tabloid (and pro-Conservative) Sun newspaper doesn’t normally get involved with campaigning for investigative journalism, so this piece by editor Victoria Newton is worth reading. It’s a no-nonsense defence of journalists and the work we do.
This is a good example of the sort of story that will be harder to report if the law changes. Matt Hancock was the UK government Health Secretary who advocated tough lockdowns while taking a more relaxed approach to his own social distancing at work. (He wasn’t the only public figure accused of hypocrisy during the pandemic, though Neil Ferguson’s spell in the wilderness didn’t last very long and he is once again a regular guest on the Today programme.)
Meanwhile this Guardian piece makes the point that the latest attack on journalism is happening while the UK has a prime minister who used to be a journalist. Though, according to Nick Cohen “(Boris) Johnson is a stranger man than many realise, with a psychological need to repress.”
What do you think?
Does your country have an Official Secrets Act? Do politicians back home get much scrutiny from the media?