8 November 2000 - for immediate release (report launch on 10 November)

UK SECURITY LAWS "AN INTERNATIONAL DISGRACE", SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS



"The UK's disregard for the public interest and preference for gagging and suppression of information over accountability and democratic scrutiny is an international disgrace", according to ARTICLE 19 and Liberty's new report, which shows how out of step the regime governing national security in the UK is with international human rights standards. Since taking office, the Labour Government has spent thousands of pounds pursuing more than a dozen individuals and publications in connection with allegations of incompetence or wrongdoing by the security and intelligence services. 2

Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, and John Wadham, Director of LIBERTY, said:

"The UK's disregard for the public interest and preference for gagging and suppression of information over accountability and democratic scrutiny is an international disgrace. There is a clear pattern of official harassment of
those coming forward with embarrassing information on the activities and conduct of the security and intelligence services.

"It is time for the government to drop its national security fig leaf and overhaul the system to bring it into line with international standards,"

They added:

"The UK stands out among established democracies for its lack of constitutional, statutory or judicial safeguards when it comes to prior censorship, protection of confidentiality of sources and taking into account the public interest in cases where national security is concerned.

A raft of mechanisms has been invoked by successive UK governments to suppress information, obtain documents, compel disclosure of sources and trace and punish those responsible for disclosures. Among these are injunctions, production orders, confidentiality clauses and contempt of court laws which can and have resulted in gagging orders, fines and prison sentences for public servants and journalists who use protected information to publicise documents and allegations relating to official incompetence, illegality or wrongdoing."

Full text of the report

For more information or a hard copy of Secrets, Spies and Whistleblowers
call Ilana or Katherine on 0207 278 9292 or e-mail press@article19.org.

Notes for editors:

1. Secrets, Spies and Whistleblowers (ARTICLE 19 and LIBERTY, published by The Guardian, November 2000) is launched on 10 November.

2. David Shayler (Court hearing on 9 November), James Steen/Punch (fined £25,000 on 7 November), Nigel Wylde (charges dropped on 2 November) Richard Tomlinson, 'Martin Ingrams', Liam Clarke, Tony Geraghty, Martin Bright, Julie-Ann Davies, Ed Moloney, The Sunday Times and The Sunday People are currently or have recently been subject to injunctions, fines and/or threats of imprisonment.



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