Category Archives: Campaigns

Beware, revamped and tougher official secrets laws are coming!

“Too often the state uses official secrets legislation to hide things that are embarrassing, such as the involvement of the British State in torture or rendition.” Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith and co-founder of Reprieve, a human rights not-for-profit organisation, December 2019.

It went almost unnoticed in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May when she announced that “legislation will be introduced to counter hostile activity by foreign states (Counter-State Threats Bill…).” Two days later the government announced a Home Office  consultation on its legislative proposals which will run until 11.45 pm on 22 July, details at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/legislation-to-counter-state-threats It includes the reform of the Official Secrets Acts 1911, 1920 and 1939 which contain the core espionage offences which the government claims have failed to keep pace with current threats and legal standards. And reform of the Official Secrets Act 1989, which governs the law around the unauthorised disclosure of official material and its onward disclosure.

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No happy 50th for Julian Assange

Saturday 3 July was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s 50th birthday, but he did not have much to celebrate. The attempt to extradite Assange to the United States was rejected in January, but bail was refused and he continues to be held in Belmarsh prison pending an appeal. It was the third birthday he has spent in the high-security prison in south east London.

To mark the day there was a giant picnic blanket in London’s Parliament Square stencilled with a Free Assange slogan. Julian’s partner and mother of their two children, Stella Moris, cut a birthday cake. She has asked the authorities in Belmarsh if the couple can get married, and hopes Assange will be granted permission to get married outside the prison. Stella Moris is a lawyer and a member of Assange’s legal team.

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Failing to defend press standards

The other day I came across a surprising quotation from Sir Alan Moses (see below in paragraph 5).  He was the first head of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), the latest incarnation of what passes for a UK press regulator. Ipso came into being following the conclusion of the first part of the Leveson Inquiry, the judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press which followed the News International ‘phone hacking scandal. Leveson 2 was intended to examine relationships between journalists and the police. It was scrapped by the government in March 2018.

Set up in 2011 the inquiry held a series of public hearings during 2011 and 2012. Even Rupert Murdoch found time to attend, in April 2012 and you can read a very interesting account of his evidence reported by Nick Davies at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/apr/25/rupert-murdoch-planned-leveson-inquiry

Sir Alan headed up Ipso from 2014 leaving at the end of 2019.

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