Tories’ next round of attacks target whistleblowers

Georgina Andrews is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

If you thought it could not get any worse after the bombardment of our civil liberties with the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, think again. The Tory government has a few more tricks up its sleeves. 

Boris Johnson’s government is in the process of developing widespread threats to the media and the public’s right to know in an overlooked consultation paper on reforms to the UK’s Official Secrets Acts, prepared by the Home Office.

New proposals show that the government wants to make journalists liable and tantamount with whistleblowers and other primary sources in a government agency, if data is published in a newspaper or website. 

Additionally, the Tories are calling for the prosecution of whistleblowers to be made easier through declaring that government prosecutors would benefit from a much lower burden of proof and not have to demonstrate that the disclosure of information indeed compromised national security. 

Whistleblowers and journalists could be charged with disclosing data that was only “capable” of being detrimental to national security, highlighting the flimsy nature of such proposals so that the government can repress as many journalists as it desires. 

Alternative to the present maximum of two years, journalists reporting information the government alleges undermines national security potentially face 14 years imprisonment. It’s not lost on anyone that national security is an infamously flexible idea. 

Furthermore, it’s likely that future secrecy acts could widen the act’s capacity to deal with data detailing the UK economy and other policy areas, consolidating the far-reaching arms of the government’s repressive capabilities. 

The brutal depiction of what is to come is presumably designed to guarantee that whistleblowers and journalists are too frightened by the repercussions of publishing unapproved disclosures of information, and thus hiding the government’s atrocities and failures from the public eye.

These proposals follow the government’s actions to shield itself from scrutiny, with the adoption of a progressively antagonistic response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act and “government by WhatsApp” where there’s no written records of meetings, as necessitated by the Public Records Act. 

Journalists in times like these are essential for uncovering the wrongdoings of a government drenched in blood. For example, in 2018, the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee published an incriminating report on how British security and intelligence agencies were participating in the torture of hundreds of terror suspects, the agencies having deceived MPs for years. They were only discovered by journalists, who revealed the depravity of their roles to the public, alongside independent lawyers.

All of these policies announced by the Tories exposes the step towards a full measure of austerity imposed upon the working class. Doubtlessly, the government will inflict more damage to the working class in the months and years ahead to stifle organising and revive profit levels. 

Therefore, we cannot trust government bodies to investigate the wrongdoings committed by the Tories because the government bodies themselves are complicit. This is why independent journalism is fundamental to uncovering the crimes carried out by Boris Johnson’s government. 

In effect, the government is voicing its willingness to discard democracy and resort to force and violence if public opinion and the media does not go their way. 

What is needed for Britain today is not the bolstering of the Official Secrets Act against journalists or increased powers of the police and security forces but political organisation and freedom from the boot of the police state. That’s why we need to Kill the Bill and fight for our rights at every opportunity.

Georgina Andrews

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