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Journalists and whistleblowers could face imprisonment for revealing information that should already be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it was claimed today.
Maurice Frankel , the director of Campaign for Freedom of Information (CFoI), told his members that the Law Commission review of UK official secrecy legislation currently underway could have dramatic implications.
He said: “Its provisional proposals would make it easier to convict officials who release information without permission and journalists and others who publish that information.”
Prison for Revealing Information
Should the proposals be adopted it would no longer be necessary to show that a disclosure was “likely” to harm protected interests to commit an offence under the 1989 Official Secrets Act.
Revealing information that the discloser should have known was “capable” of causing such harm would be enough for a conviction, even if that harm was extremely unlikely.
But information which is unlikely to cause harm would have to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act if requested, Mr Frankel argues.
Maximum Prison Sentences
The CFoI is now asking the public for small donations to support its campaign to prevent the proposals becoming law, and to “strengthen the public’s right to know”.
Mr Frankel added: “The Campaign is a tiny but highly focused organisation. We have only two staff – but between us have worked for the Campaign for a total of 49 years.
“This gives us a unique perspective in campaigning for greater openness, providing expert assistance to requesters and helping people learn how to use FOIA.”