Scribes may face jail for spy leaks

Journalists could now face prosecution and jail for reporting Snowden-style revelations

Sydney: The Australian government has expanded its national security powers and journalists could now face prosecution and jail for reporting Snowden-style revelations about certain spy operations.

A bill presented in the parliament on Wednesday would expand the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, including creation of a new offence punishable by five years in jail for “any person” who disclosed information relating to “special intelligence operations”, reported The Guardian.

The person would be liable for a 10-year term if the disclosure would “endanger the health or safety of any person or prejudice the effective conduct of a special intelligence operation”.

Special intelligence operations are a new type of operation in which intelligence officers receive immunity from liability or prosecution where they may need to engage in conduct that would be otherwise unlawful. The bill also creates new offences that only apply to current and former intelligence operatives and contractors.

The leading criminal barrister and Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns said the “troubling” legislation could be used to prosecute and jail journalists who reported on information they received about special intelligence operations.

“It’s an unprecedented clause which would capture the likes of Wikileaks, the Guardian, the New York Times, and any other media organisation that reports on such material,” said Mr Barns.

( Source : agencies )
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