UK government’s little-known proposed reforms to Britain’s Official Secrets Acts pose far-reaching threats to the media and the public’s right to know. They could land journalists and others in jail for fourteen years for publishing information the government claims damages national security.
The UK’s Coronavirus Act is a serious threat to civil liberties. The Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill will undermine them further.1 Now, Boris Johnson’s government is taking us even more down a very dangerous slippery slope [in] a largely unnoticed consultation paper on changes to Britain’s Official Secrets Acts drawn up by the Home Office …
Richard Norton-Taylor, former Guardian defence correspondent and security editor, and author of The State of Secrecy. Full piece here ...
In 1979 I wrote an undergraduate essay on Britain’s radical press. Bearing titles like Reynold’s News, and the Political Register of tory turned establishment scourge William Cobbett, these hotbeds of resistance sprang up in the severe recession following the Napoleonic Wars but by the 1840s were slowly dying, with capital’s victory over feudalism – bloodless, unlike France’s, and due in no small part to literal marriages of old money with new2 – a fait accompli.
Efforts to stamp out such sedition had combined draconian laws – in an era of one way tickets to Botany Bay, and hanging offences climbing from fifty in 1700 to more than two hundred by 18303 – with taxes routinely evaded. Mocking such efforts, Cobbett had written:
Whereas we royal banditti of thieves and murderers disrelish the CHEAP publications that have recently appeared, be it enacted that all HONEST men who dare to speak the truth be taxed, fined and imprisoned …
None of those measures worked but by mid cen
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