Journalists must be more vociferous in defending whistleblowers like Derek Pasquill, according to Andrew Gilligan.
“Leaks and whistleblowers are a mainstay of journalism, and one without which literally thousands of stories in the public interest could never have been told,” Gilligan writes in his Evening Standard column.
Pasquill, a civil servant in the Foreign Office, had been charged under the Official Secrets Act for leaking documents to journlists including Martin Bright of the New Statesman. All six charges against him were dropped yesterday.
The New Statesman is now calling for an inquiry.
Pasquill has walked free, but the same is not true of David Keogh and Leo O’Connor, who were sent to prison last summer after being convicted under the Official Secrets Act.
“We need to cherish these people, and protect them. But the almost total lack of protest from the media about Keogh, O’Connor and Pasquill – classic political-embarrassment uses of the Official Secrets Act – has sent a clear message to potential future leakers: you’re on your own,” Gilligan argues.
Journalists are not immune from prosecution under the “stealth clampdown on unapproved official information” in recent years, Gilligan continues, noting the case of Sally Murrer, the Milton Keynes journalist who was arrested and charged last year after receiving information from a police source.
“If every journalist who allegedly received leaked information from the police were arrested, there wouldn’t be many of us left. Maybe that’s what is wanted,” writes Gilligan.