London wants to crack down on whistleblowers
The British government wants to stiffen punishment for those who reveal state state secrets or "economically harmful data". Under the proposed laws whistleblowers and journalists could face prison sentences of up to 14 years, and in court they would no longer be able to argue that they were acting for the common good; instead a government-appointed commissioner would decide what was in the public interest. The British press is outraged.
Democracy needs transparency
If the British government presses ahead with its plan it will be much more difficult to expose wrongdoing in government circles, The Guardian warns:
“Journalists and the whistleblowers with whom they work perform an essential service in ensuring transparency - often where government would keep us in the dark. There are at present very few means by which wrongdoing within government agencies can be exposed, and as a consequence it falls to individuals. There is no question that protecting national security is important, but public interest journalism and individual ethics have their place in democracy alongside security and the law. ... In this age of Donald Trump, democracy has to be about more than filling a ballot box every few years.”
Government can suppress inconvenient information
Critical media will no longer be able to exercise their controlling function, the Daily Telegraph complains:
“If it is possible for people who obtain secret official information to be charged with a crime, journalists would be exposed to prosecution simply for doing their job. ... Sadly, recent experience proves that British officials and politicians are all too willing to use laws and regulations they say were conceived with noble intentions to threaten journalists and others whose work they find inconvenient. ... Journalists' ability to obtain and reveal information that those in power find inconvenient is a vital part of our democracy; the information put before the electorate allows them to cast proper judgment on those who govern them.”